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Mayo study recommends reduced chemo for colon cancer

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CHICAGO — Mayo Clinic researchers revealed Sunday that shorter-duration chemotherapy could become the new normal for treating colon cancer, which could reduce side effects by cutting the treatment period in half.

That announcement was made during the 2017 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago. Mayo's researchers are members of the Alliance for Clinical Trial in Oncology who helped study nearly 13,000 patients from 12 countries over six clinical trials.

The study targeted low-risk stage 3 colon cancer treatment with oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy following surgery, concluding that 3-month treatment may be have "fewer and less severe side effects, such as nerve damage" than the current 6-month model of care.

Dr. Axel Grothey, a Mayo Clinic oncologist who was the senior author of the study, says that a key side effect of oxaliplatin is nerve damage that "may result in permanent numbness, tingling and pain in the hands and feet — even after the chemotherapy is discontinued."

Grothey contends that a shorter duration of therapy would spare patients unnecessary toxicity and lead to "substantial" savings in health care expenditure, potentially becoming the new standard of care for postoperative management of patients with low-risk stage 3 colon cancer, which impacts about 400,000 people per year across the globe. The current standard of care was developed more than a decade ago, Grothey said.

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Still, the new model isn't perfect.

Mayo researchers observed a "slightly decreased disease-free survival" rate among overall stage 3 colon cancer patients who tested the reduced chemo schedule; data was not provided to clarify that statement. However, the shorted scheduled proved just as effective for patients diagnosed with low-risk stage 3 colon cancer.

Grothey said studying those findings "may lead to more individualized treatment duration based on a patient's individual preference, age, tolerance of therapy, and risk of recurrence."

The new study was funded by grants from the Medical Research Council, National Institute of Health Research, National Cancer Institute, Italian Agency for Drugs, Japanese Foundation for Multidisciplinary Treatment of Cancer, French Ministry of Health, and French National Cancer Institute.

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