New cervical cancer treatment method 'biggest step forward in two decades'

Short burst of chemotherapy before main treatment could lead to better outcomes for women with cervical cancer

A new strategy involving short, intensive bursts of chemotherapy shows promising results not only for cervical cancer, but across various cancer types. Getty Images
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A groundbreaking new method in treating cervical cancer could lead to lower rates of death and disease recurrence, researchers have told The National.

The new method, involving a short, intensive burst of chemotherapy before the main course of chemoradiation treatment, has been hailed as the most significant advance in the treatment of cervical cancer in more than two decades.

“The trial is expected to change current clinical practice … for women with cervical cancer which hasn’t spread to other parts of the body,” Samuel Godfrey, research information lead at Cancer Research UK, told The National.

“The burst of chemotherapy can be delivered with existing, cheap drugs so could be adopted into clinical practice quickly.”

During the ESMO medical conference, scientists said that the new approach had reduced the risk of death and recurrence of the disease by 35 per cent.

A total of 500 women participated in the trial, receiving either the new treatment or the usual chemoradiation. Eighty per cent of the women who underwent the new treatment were alive five years later and 73 per cent had not experienced a recurrence or spread of the disease.

“Timing is everything when you’re treating cancer,” said Iain Foulkes, executive director of research and Innovation at Cancer Research UK.

“The simple act of adding induction chemotherapy to the start of chemoradiation treatment for cervical cancer has delivered remarkable results in this trial.”

He expressed hope that this strategy of short courses of induction chemotherapy would be swiftly adopted in clinical practices.

And this approach is not limited to the treatment of cervical cancer alone.

“Short bursts of chemotherapy before the main course of treatment are being shown to be effective in other cancers,” Dr Godfrey said.

“For example, the Cancer Research UK-funded FOxTROT trial found that a burst of chemotherapy before surgery for colon cancer reduced the chances of it coming back by 28 per cent within two years.

“There is a growing evidence base for this in many types of cancer.”

This growing body of evidence could herald a new phase in cancer treatment strategies, utilising existing, inexpensive drugs to improve outcomes across various types of cancer.

However, the practical aspects and potential side effects of this new treatment method must also be taken into consideration.

Despite its effectiveness, not every woman with cervical cancer will experience the same beneficial outcomes, and potential side effects such as nausea and hair loss could be possible deterrents.

But with thousands of women being affected by cervical cancer annually, this breakthrough could signify a monumental shift in improving survival rates and the overall efficacy of treatment protocols.

Updated: October 24, 2023, 4:48 PM