Scientists have announced that already-available drugs could result in a 35% decrease in deaths caused by cervical cancer, marking it as the most significant breakthrough in treating the disease in over 20 years.
Researchers from UCL Cancer Institute and UCLH have stated that a short course of induction chemotherapy (IC) before the standard treatment for cervical cancer, chemoradiation (CRT), could significantly reduce the rates of relapse and death.
Cervical cancer is most commonly diagnosed in women in their early 30s, with approximately 3,200 new cases reported each year in the UK.
According to the World Health Organization, it is the fourth most prevalent cancer among women globally.
The trial revealed that after five years, 80% of cancer patients who received IC plus CRT, a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, were still alive, and 73% had not experienced a recurrence or spread of the disease.
In the group receiving regular treatment, 72% of cancer patients were still alive, and 64% had not experienced a recurrence or spread of the disease.
Dr. Mary McCormack, the lead investigator of the trial, described it as “the most significant improvement in outcome for this disease in over 20 years”.
Dr. Iain Foulkes, the executive director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK, stated, “Timing is crucial when treating cancer.
“The simple act of adding induction chemotherapy to the beginning of chemoradiation treatment for cervical cancer has yielded remarkable results in this trial.
“An increasing body of evidence is demonstrating the value of additional rounds of chemotherapy before other treatments such as surgery and radiotherapy in various other cancers.
“Not only can it reduce the chances of cancer recurrence, but it can also be administered quickly using drugs that are already available worldwide.
“We are excited about the potential improvements this trial could bring to cervical cancer treatment and hope that short courses of induction chemotherapy will be adopted rapidly in clinics.”
The trial, which involved 500 patients across the UK, Mexico, India, Italy, and Brazil, spanned a 10-year period.
Since the drugs required for IC, carboplatin and paclitaxel, are affordable, accessible, and already approved for patient use, the researchers believe they could be incorporated into standard-of-care treatment relatively quickly.
This could potentially lead to the first major change in how cervical cancer is treated since 1999.
CRT has been the standard treatment, but despite advancements in radiation therapy techniques, the cancer returns in up to 30% of cases.
According to Cancer Research UK, which funded the study, the five-year survival rate for cervical cancer is approximately 70%.
Professor Jonathan Ledermann, the senior author of the results from UCL Cancer Institute, described the findings as “an important advancement in treatment”.
Dr. McCormack added, “I am incredibly proud of all the patients who participated in the trial; their contribution has allowed us to gather the evidence needed to improve the treatment of cervical cancer patients worldwide.”
The preliminary results were presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology congress.