TUESDAY, Oct. 18, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Radiation therapy and chemotherapy before surgery benefit rectal cancer patients by shrinking the tumor so that it's more easily removed and less likely to come back, says a new French study.
The findings were presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, in Denver.
The study included 733 rectal cancer patients who were divided into two groups. The first group received radiation therapy alone for five weeks before they had surgery to remove the cancer. The second group received chemotherapy in addition to the five weeks of radiation therapy prior to surgery.
While the combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy did not significantly improve survival rates, it did improve local tumor control and helped prevent the return of cancer, the study found. Five years after treatment, cancer had returned in 8 percent of the patients who received radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
"The standard treatment for rectal cancer has been radiation therapy alone before surgery, but this is the first randomized study to prove that adding chemotherapy to the treatment helps patients beat their cancer," study co-author Dr. Pascale Romestaing said in a prepared statement.
"This treatment should be recommended as the standard for the majority of rectal cancer patients," said study author Dr. Jean-Pierre Gerard, a radiation oncologist at the Centre Antoine-Lacassagne in Nice, France.
The American Cancer Society has more about rectum and colon cancer.