Combined Modality Therapy Shows Improvements in Survival for Certain Cancer Patients

The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: May 20, 1996

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photo of multimodal treatment panel Philadelphia, PA, May 20, 1996 -- Important new data regarding the use of combined modality therapy were reported today at the 32nd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Combined modality therapy refers to the use of more than on technique for fighting cancer. These modalities include chemotherapy surgery, radiation and hormonal therapy.

"Several important new studies have demonstrated that for certain cancer types, using two or more weapons in the fight against the disease is more effective than a single modality," said Derek Raghavan, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chief, Solid Tumor Oncology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute (Buffalo, NY), at a press briefing today. "This is an exciting development in improving patient survival."

Marked Improvement of Survival with Combination of Chermotherapy and Radiotherapy in Patients with Advanced Nasopharyngeal Cancers

Muhyi Al-Sarraf, M.D., medical director, Providence C ancer Center (Southfield, MI), presented the results of a study which compared survival of patients with advanced nasopharyngeal cancer treated with radiotherapy (RT) alone compared with those treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy (CT-RT). The study was coordinated by the Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG) with the participation of Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) and Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG).

Nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) is a malignancy of the part of the pharynx located just above the soft palate. The Epstein-Barr virus may play a role in the development of this disease. NPC is common in southern China, Southeast Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and among the Eskimos. The incidence may be increasing in the United States as the number of immigrants increases from these countries.

Radiation can be successful in achieving complete remission of NPC -- but the disease may recur locally, regionally in the lymph nodes, or systemically in a high percent of cases. Overall five-year survival for NPC patients is about 40%; 10-year survival is 28%; and 20-year survival is approximately 12%. NPC is also highly responsive to chemotherapy. For those patients who fail to respond to RT, chemotherapy may be given, and is associated with a 20% survival rate.

In the multicenter study conducted in the U.S. and Canada, 150 patients were randomized to recieve either chemo-radiotherapy (n=81) or radiotherapy alone (n=69). The median progression-free survival was 123 months for the $% group and has not yet been reached for the CT-RT group; three-year survival is 24% for RT and 65% for CT-RT, a highly significant statistical difference. The median survival for the RT group was 34 months and for the CT-RT group 60 months, with three-year survival of 45% for RT and 76% for CT-RT.

"This study shows that chemo-radiotherapy for advanced nasopharyngeal cancer can significantly alter survival rates for this patient population," Derek Raghavan, M.D., professor and chief, Solid Tumor Foundation, Roswell Park ancer Institute (Buffalo, NY), said ata a press briefing today. "NPC is a common disease globally and these results should impact the way it is treated."

For more information about nasopharyngeal cancers, consult OncoLink's Oropharyngeal Cancer Page.

Further information presented at ASCO about multimodality treatments will be placed online as it becomes available.