Chemotherapy Reduces Stomach Cancer Death Risk
Patients with stomach cancer who receive chemotherapy before and after surgery can reduce their risk for death by one-fourth, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, the AP/Miami Herald reports. The study, led by David Cunningham of Royal Marsden Hospital in Britain and supported by the British Medical Research Council, examined 503 patients with operable stomach cancer or cancer of the esophagus.
According to the study, after five years, 36% of participants who received chemotherapy before and after surgery survived, compared with 23% of those who only underwent surgery. The study also finds that participants who received chemotherapy -- a combination of epirubicin, cisplatin and fluorouracil developed in the 1980s -- experienced similar side effects as those previously reported by patients with stomach cancer (Nano, AP/Miami Herald, 7/6).
According to the Wall Street Journal, the study provides the "most substantial clinical evidence in support of preoperative therapy for stomach cancer patients."
Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, said, "The message to patients is this: If you have a diagnosis that you have cancer of the stomach, you really need to be seen by an oncologist before your surgery."
In an editorial that accompanied the study, John Macdonald, a researcher of stomach cancer at St. Vincent's Comprehensive Cancer Center in New York, writes that the study is "the first well-designed, well-executed and well-powered study of preoperative therapy that we've seen" (Seward, Wall Street Journal, 7/6). He adds that future studies should test the effectiveness of newer chemotherapy combinations (AP/Miami Herald, 7/6).
Macdonald writes that future studies should test whether patients with stomach cancer can benefit from chemotherapy before surgery and radiation treatment after surgery (Wall Street Journal, 7/6).