Canadian Cancer Society-funded glioblastoma trial reduces risk of death by 33%

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New Canadian research presented on Sunday  in Chicago shows a significant improvement in the survival rate of a group of elderly patients with glioblastoma, an incurable form of brain cancer. The trial found that the addition of temozolomide to a shortened course of radiation therapy, followed by monthly maintenance doses, reduced the risk of death by 33% among the patients in the trial without compromising their quality of life.

(Gord Downie, lead singer and lyricist for Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, has been diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme. It’s the most common and most aggressive cancerous primary brain tumour (a tumour that starts in the brain). Glioblastomas are made up of different cell types and are usually highly cancerous because the cells reproduce quickly and have a large network of blood vessels supporting them. Most of these tumours occur in the cerebral hemispheres but can develop in other parts of the brain such as the corpus callosum, brain stem or spinal cord.)

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The clinical trial was 1 of 2 Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG) studies, funded by the Canadian Cancer Society’s donors, to be included in the plenary session of the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) prestigious annual meeting in Chicago.

This study was coordinated by Dr Chris O’Callaghan (Queen’s University) and co-led by Dr James Perry(Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre) and Dr Normand Laperriere (Princess Margaret Cancer Centre).

The results of this study will change the treatment of glioblastoma in elderly patients around the world as they provide the first evidence from a randomized clinical trial that chemotherapy in combination with a shorter radiation schedule provides significant benefits in elderly patients. Glioblastoma is the most common primary brain tumour in adults and has one of the lowest survival rates.

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“Having 2 trials presented as plenaries at ASCO’s annual meeting is a significant achievement for the CCTG as well as the Canadian Cancer Society,” says Dr Siân Bevan, vice-president of research at the Canadian Cancer Society. “When a study is chosen for this kind of recognition, it’s considered to be one of the most significant advances in cancer treatment and care in the world.”

Typically, 4 papers are chosen for ASCO plenary sessions and this year there were over 5,000 submissions. To have CCTG trials represent half of these prestigious plenaries is an incredible achievement.

Breast cancer recurrence trial

The second featured trial discovered that extending letrozole (a type of aromatase inhibitor) therapy from 5 to 10 years in post-menopausal women with early breast cancer reduces the risk of recurrence by 34%. These findings were published concurrently in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Results of this trial mean that women and their doctors will be able to make a more informed decision about whether they want to extend treatment another 5 years.

This study was led by lead author Dr Paul Goss (Harvard Medical School) and lead senior investigator DrWendy Parulekar (Queen’s University).

“The Society is proud to have played such a major role in the support of these trials,” says Dr Bevan. “With funding from our generous donors, we’re able to ensure that these game-changing trials happen acrossCanada and impact cancer treatment and care all over the world.” – CNW

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