Chemotherapy before surgery cuts risk of return of colon cancer -study

Science and Health

Undergoing chemotherapy before surgery can improve colon cancer patients’ chances of the cancer not coming back, according to the results of a recent clinical trial. 

The trial showed that colon cancer patients receiving chemotherapy before rather than after the surgery, saw a decrease of 28% in the chance of cancer returning within 2 years

The most common type of cancer

Colon cancer is the second most common type of cancer worldwide, with 1.7 million diagnoses annually. The standard treatment is surgery followed by chemotherapy.

Despite getting chemotherapy, in 20%-30% of patients the cancer returns after treatment and then is usually incurable.

1,053 colon cancer patients from 85 hospitals in the UK, Denmark and Sweden were involved in the peer-review study, led by scientists at the University of Birmingham and the University of Leeds and published on January 19 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology

A DISPENSING chemist prepares drugs for a chemotherapy treatment in a sterile room at Antoine- Lacassagne Cancer Center in Nice, France, in 2012 (credit: ERIC GAILLARD/REUTERS)

The goal of the study was to determine whether giving 6 weeks of chemotherapy before the surgery might safely reduce recurrence risk in patients with locally advanced but operable colon cancer.

The patients selected for the trial were divided into two groups. One group received 6 weeks of chemotherapy before the surgery, followed by another 18 weeks of chemotherapy afterward. The other group received the standard treatment, starting with the surgery and followed by 24 weeks of chemotherapy.

In follow-up assessments within the next two years, the scientists found that patients who got chemotherapy before the surgery had significantly decreased chances to see their cancer come back, compared with those who got all the chemotherapy after surgery. 

The results of the trial showed that chemotherapy for selected operable colon cancer can be delivered safely and results in marked tumor down-staging and better disease control than the same chemotherapy given only after surgery.

The scientists believe that giving chemotherapy to colon cancer patients before surgery could be easily adopted by other health systems across the world.