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‘One-two punch’ treatment increases brain cancer life expectancy by over 50%

Monday 26 October, 2015


More research needed to land knockout blow 

Victorians with the most common - and deadly - form of brain cancer (glioblastoma) are living more than 50 per cent longer on average thanks to a ‘one-two punch' treatment regimen that new research has confirmed as the best available.

A major Australian study of 351 glioblastoma patients has confirmed at a population level that those treated with both radiotherapy and chemotherapy after surgery lived significantly longer. The study, funded by Cancer Council Victoria and published in the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience, found that when chemotherapy was added to the traditional radiation treatment, average survival increased from 8.9 months to 14.4 months.

Study lead author Associate Professor Hui Gan of Melbourne's Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre said the results confirmed that the standard treatment regimen currently in use provided glioblastoma patients with the best possible outcome.

"We were really excited by the results. When treatments move from the trial phase into the community you don't always see the same magnitude of obvious benefit, but in this case the treatment clearly improves survival for the general population.

"Furthermore, this treatment is usually well-tolerated, and has few impacts on quality of life."

The enhanced treatment was rolled out rapidly in Victoria following the success of a 2005 international clinical trial. Since then, the five-year average survival rate for Victorians diagnosed with this form of brain cancer has tripled from two per cent to six per cent.

However given almost one third of patients were not able to receive any form of post-operative therapy, and there remains no cure for the devastating disease, further research is critical.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said that Victorians diagnosed with glioblastoma continued to receive world-leading treatment and care.

"Today two-in-three Victorians will survive cancer five years after diagnosis. If we are to lift overall cancer survival rates, investment in further research into ‘forgotten' cancers, like brain cancer, needs to happen."

Michele Fazio was treated with both radiotherapy and chemotherapy after having surgery on a brain tumour in 2011.

"It's now four years on and while I do often feel tired, thanks to the treatment I'm doing well, and get to spend more time with my two kids."

The research was the product of a collaboration between the Victorian Cancer Registry (at Cancer Council Victoria) and clinicians from leading institutions.

Cancer Council Victoria is hosting a free online webinar for brain cancer patients, carers and family from 7pm - 8:30pm on Tuesday 27 October. Speakers include a brain cancer survivor and neuro-oncologist who will discuss cognitive impacts and practical ways these can be manage.