The research, funded by the Canadian Cancer Society and appearing in tomorrow's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, is already making an impact around the world.
"With the very significant benefits documented in this study, we are recommending that a brief course of chemotherapy after surgery should be the new standard of care around the world," says Canadian Cancer Society researcher Dr. Timothy Winton, chair of the study and associate professor and director of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton.
"In fact, when post-operative chemotherapy was adopted as a standard of care in breast and colon cancer, it was based on data demonstrating much less benefit to what we have now achieved for lung cancer patients," he added.
In the seven-year study involving 482 patients from Canada and the United States, investigators led by Dr. Winton found that post-surgical treatment with the chemotherapy drugs vinorelbine and cisplatin increased the survival rate after five years by 15 per cent. Prior to this research, surgery was the only treatment available for patients with this common type of lung cancer, but the tumour often recurred outside of the lung within a few years and was then incurable.
"Cancer care specialists throughout Canada, the United States, United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Europe, South East Asia and Australia are now giving chemotherapy treatment after surgery to their patients with early-stage non-small cell lung cancer," says Dr. Frances Shepherd, chair of the lung site group committee of the National Cancer Institute of Canada Clinical Trials Group, the organization that coordinated the study. Dr. Shepherd is also a medical oncologist at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toront
Contact: Michael Robb
University of Alberta