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New study in JAMA details trends in diagnosis, treatment of brain tumors

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Feb. 2, 2005 -- A two year study involving over 560 patients with the newly-diagnosed malignant brain tumors shows that patterns of care are varied and there is a need for new, detailed clinical guidelines for management of brain tumors. The study is published in the Feb. 2, 2005 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found on the web at www.jama.ama-assn.org.

"We have a long way to go because we still do not have a reliable way of controlling these malignant tumors," said study co-author Dr. Edward R. Laws, Jr., professor of neurological surgery, internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Virginia Health System. "Physicians and other caregivers do fairly well treating these tumors, but this important study helps us see where we might do better." The average life expectancy for patients with malignant brain tumors is a little over one year, unchanged since the 1960's, Laws said.

The study found that there are common practice patterns that follow published medical findings, such as the use of radiation therapy, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or surgery on brain tumor patients. Over 75 percent of patients underwent such procedures (92 percent in the case of MRI, 87 percent in the case of postoperative radiation therapy).

But, the study discovered that some practice patterns contradict published guidelines. Over 80 percent of the patients received anti-epileptic drugs, where there is little value for patients who do not have epileptic seizures and significant side effects. The infrequent use of chemotherapy may also conflict with published literature. Only 54 percent of patients received chemotherapy, which has been found to correlate with increased survival, though modest.

One of the most surprising findings was the infrequent use of anti-depressant medications (8 percent) for patients with symptoms of depression. "The
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Contact: Bob Beard
reb8e@virginia.edu
434-982-4490
University of Virginia Health System
2-Feb-2005


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