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Breakthrough in medical research: New chemotherapy gives hope to brain tumour patients

A large international study conducted by the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute of Canada(NCIC) Clinical Trials Group demonstrated that the addition of a novel chemotherapy agent, Temozolomide (brand name: Temodal) to radiation therapy increases survival in patients suffering from glioblastoma, a very aggressive form of a brain tumour. Further, molecular analyses of the tumour allowed for the identification of those patients most likely to benefit from this type of treatment. The findings are leading to a new standard of care for patients with this fast growing and devastating cancer. The results of this landmark trial are published in two companion papers in this weeks' edition of the New England Journal of Medicine (publication date: 10 March 2005).

Primary tumours originating in the brain account for less than 5% of all cancer diagnoses. However, brain cancer frequently affects previously healthy younger men and women in the middle of their most active life. Glioblastoma is the most common type of primary malignant brain tumour in adults with a yearly incidence of 5-7 persons per 100.000. Thus in the European Union approx. 20'000 new patients are diagnosed every year. Glioblastoma is a rapidly growing malignant brain tumour and usually has a fatal outcome.

Prior to the discovery of this new therapy, the average life expectancy of patients with glioblastoma was about 1 year. The results of this study demonstrate a clear improvement of survival. At 2 years only 10% of patients treated with radiotherapy alone were alive, compared to 26% of patients receiving the combination of both radiotherapy and temozolomide chemotherapy. If patients were to be selected according to their molecular profile - the investigators analysed the functionality of a gene responsible for DNA repair, the so called MGMT gene - the improvement is even more dramatic, as almost half of th
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Contact: Mathilde Fenoulhet
32-2-774-1651
European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer
9-Mar-2005


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