Chemo BEFORE bowel cancer surgery slashes chances of disease returning 


Chemo BEFORE bowel cancer surgery slashes chances of disease returning by a quarter, ‘remarkable’ trial finds

  • Research suggest chemotherapy should be done before bowel cancer surgery
  • Cancer Research UK funded trial gave patients chemo for six weeks beforehand
  • It found chemo before surgery could cut chance of cancer return by a quarter 

Chemotherapy before bowel cancer surgery can slash its chances of returning by more than a quarter, research has found.

The Cancer Research UK funded trial shows that giving chemotherapy ahead of operating for early-stage bowel cancer cuts the chance of the disease coming back by 28 per cent.

Experts said the ‘remarkable’ findings could transform how people in the early stages of the disease are treated, potentially improving the prognosis for around 5,000 UK patients a year.

Chemotherapy is typically given after surgery to try to capture stray cancer cells that could lead to the disease coming back.

Chemotherapy before bowel cancer surgery can slash its chances of returning by more than a quarter, research has found (file photo)

Under the new regime, patients would receive six weeks of chemotherapy before undergoing surgery, followed by a further 18 weeks of chemotherapy.

The FOxTROT trial, led by the universities of Birmingham and Leeds, involved 1,053 patients at 85 hospitals in the UK, Denmark and Sweden.

During the study, the first group of patients received six weeks of chemotherapy, followed by surgery, then 18 weeks of chemotherapy.

The second group had normal treatment for bowel cancer, which involved surgery followed by 24 weeks of chemotherapy.

The findings showed that patients who had chemotherapy before surgery were significantly less likely to see their cancer come back within two years.

Professor Matthew Seymour, from the University of Leeds, said it showed ‘timing is everything’ when it comes to treating the disease, which is also known as colon cancer.

He said: ‘The simple act of bringing forward chemotherapy, giving it before instead of after surgery, delivers some remarkable results.

‘Delivering chemotherapy before surgery could prevent recurrences of cancer without the need for expensive new drugs or technologies.

‘It was especially encouraging to find that patients who had chemotherapy before their surgery suffered fewer surgical complications.’

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 11 per cent of all new cancer cases with around 42,900 diagnoses each year.

Scientists believe this approach could be adopted across the NHS and in countries worldwide, benefiting hundreds of thousands of patients every year.

Dr Laura Magill, associate professor at the Birmingham clinical trials unit, said up to one in three bowel cancer patients will see it return after surgery, which was ‘too high’.

‘The standard approach has been to give chemotherapy after surgery to eradicate any cancer cells that might have spread before surgery.

‘But our research shows that giving some of that chemotherapy before surgery increases the chances that all cancer cells will be killed.

Under the new regime, bowel cancer patients would receive six weeks of chemotherapy before undergoing surgery, followed by a further 18 weeks of chemotherapy (file photo)

Under the new regime, bowel cancer patients would receive six weeks of chemotherapy before undergoing surgery, followed by a further 18 weeks of chemotherapy (file photo)

‘A growing body of evidence is showing the value of pre-operative chemotherapy in several other cancers, and we believe that our results could transform how we approach colon cancer in the clinic.’

Further clinical trials are planned to investigate whether older patients also benefit from chemotherapy before surgery, according to the findings published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

It comes after the Daily Mail teamed up with Cancer Research UK, who to launch the Fighting to Beat Children’s Cancer campaign, asking generous readers to dig deep and help turn the tide on cancer.

Genevieve Edwards, of Bowel Cancer UK, said: ‘It’s wonderful to see such positive results from this robust trial, which we have been following with great interest.

‘It’s fantastic news that has the potential to make a real difference to the lives of the thousands of people diagnosed with earlier stage bowel cancer every year.’


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