Breakthrough research results change cancer treatment worldwide

25 July 2018

Two clinical trials funded in part by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) are changing the way we treat pancreatic and breast cancer around the world. The Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG) announced these breakthrough results in June at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting.

The first trial looked at whether some women with early-stage breast cancer could safely skip chemotherapy, recruiting over 10,000 women from Canada and the United States. Breast tissue that was removed from these women during surgery underwent a genetic test to determine the patients’ risk of cancer relapse. Those who scored medium risk were randomly selected to receive either hormone therapy alone, or hormone therapy in combination with chemotherapy.

After 9 years, women in both groups had similar rates of survival and cancer reoccurrence. The results showed that the genetic test can accurately predict which women do not need chemotherapy as part of their treatment, sparing them from toxic side effects.

The second trial focused on people living with pancreatic cancer who had surgery to remove a pancreatic tumour. Dr Jim Biagi tested a new chemotherapy combination to delay relapse in patients following surgery. This four-drug combination was found to be more effective than the standard of care, with patients who received the treatment remaining cancer-free for nine months longer compared to those given standard chemotherapy.

“These trial results demonstrate that patients who receive this new treatment after surgery are almost twice as likely to survive,” says Dr Jim Biagi, a researcher & oncologist at the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario at Kingston General Hospital. “This is life-changing for these patients and should impact how we treat pancreatic cancer around the world.”

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