New therapy surprisingly successful in brain tumours

March 7th, 2009 - 3:15 pm ICT by IANS  

London, March 7 (IANS) German and Swiss researchers have demonstrated that a two-drug combination produces a critical improvement in the treatment of specific brain tumours.
They treated 39 patients diagnosed with gliablastoma, the most aggressive and the most common brain tumour. The patients survived an average of 23 months; with the standard therapy, the mean would have been 14.6 months.

Left untreated, glioblastomas prove fatal within a few weeks. Even today, glioblastomas are untreatable — something which even the new combination therapy cannot change.

However, Ulrich Herrlinger, professor at the Bonn University Schwerpunkt Klinische Neuroonkologie, speaks of an outstanding success: “This unusually manifest extension of the survival time has surprised even us.

“Our results offer the opportunity to improve our grip on this aggressive form of cancer. Now, further investigations involving a larger number of patients are needed to optimise this therapy. Planning for this is already in hand in Bonn,” he added.

Until now, doctors have treated glioblastomas using radiotherapy with chemotherapy. The “gold standard” in this case for the last few years has been the active agent temozolomide. This is still celebrated as the most important breakthrough in the treatment of glioblastomas.

The researchers combined this preparation with the drug lomustine and also gave the patients radiotherapy.

The 39 patients thus treated survived the tumour for an average of 23.1 months. With the standard therapy, this time is over one third shorter. Seven patients even survived for over four years, said a Bonn University statement.

It would appear that certain changes in the genotype are critical for the success of this therapy.

“With eleven participants in the study, the information of one gene had been subjected to a characteristic modification,” Herrlinger said. The study has been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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