Giving chemotherapy after radiotherapy improves survival for patients with rare brain tumour

06 Jun 2016

GIVING chemotherapy after radiotherapy delays further growth of a rare type of brain tumour, increasing the number of patients alive at five years from 44 per cent to 56 per cent. These results – from the BR14 clinical trial for patients with anaplastic glioma – were presented yesterday at the 2016 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting.

The trial compared survival for patients whose tumours were thought to be less likely to respond to chemotherapy because they did not have mutations in two genes called 1p and 19q.

750 patients from around the world were split into four groups and either given:

  1. Radiotherapy alone
  2. Radiotherapy at the same time as chemotherapy
  3. Radiotherapy then chemotherapy
  4. Radiotherapy at the same time as and followed by chemotherapy.

Giving chemotherapy after radiotherapy (groups three and four) halted tumour growth for 43 months after treatment, compared with 19 months for those who only had radiotherapy (groups one and two). This improvement resulted in 56 per cent of patients given radiotherapy then chemotherapy surviving for five years, compared with only 44 per cent of those who did not.

While giving chemotherapy after radiotherapy has improved survival and is now standard care for these patients, the benefits of chemotherapy at the same time as radiotherapy are still unclear and need further follow-up.

Around 280 people are diagnosed with anaplastic gliomas each year in England.

The BR14 trial, also known as CATNON, was run by the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) and funded in the UK by Cancer Research UK. The MRC CTU at UCL coordinated the UK sites that took part in the trial.

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