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Cetuximab Helps Treat Colorectal Cancer

Drug plus chemo boosts surgery success for patients with liver lesions, researchers find

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 25, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Adding the drug cetuximab to neoadjuvant chemotherapy can shrink tumors and boost the odds of successful surgery in colorectal cancer patients with inoperable metastatic liver lesions, new research suggests.

Tumors spread to other parts of the body in more than half of patients with colorectal cancer. Most commonly, the cancer spreads to the liver. Removing the tumors in the liver can cure patients, but about 80 percent have inoperable disease and a poor prognosis when they see doctors, the researchers explain in the Nov. 24 online edition of The Lancet Oncology.

Previous research suggests that neoadjuvant treatment with irinotecan- or oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy can make surgery more likely to succeed. The new study aimed to see if addition of the drug cetuximab, also known as Erbitux, would help patients even more.

The study authors, Gunnar Folprecht, from University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus in Dresden, Germany, and colleagues from Germany and Austria found that treatment with cetuximab boosted the proportion of tumors that could be treated with surgery. The treatment, in general, didn't have serious side effects.

"Our data suggest that treatment with cetuximab and chemotherapy results in high confirmed tumor response rates ... leading to ... increased respectability," Folprecht and colleagues wrote. "In the light of recent studies in metastatic colorectal cancer, the value of further treatment intensification will be investigated."

More information

For more about colorectal cancer, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

SOURCE: The Lancet Oncology, news release, Nov. 24, 2009
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