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Adjuvant Chemo Improves Colon Cancer Treatment

Some patients -- especially women, elderly -- still not receiving adjuvant chemotherapy

TUESDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News) -- The use of adjuvant chemotherapy for colon cancer and subsequent survival rates have increased since the treatment was recommended in a 1990 National Institutes of Health Consensus Conference, according to a report in the Dec. 7 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

J. Milburn Jessup, M.D., of the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Md., and colleagues examined prospective data from 85,934 patients with stage III colon cancer found in the National Cancer Data Base to see if the conference recommendation to use a 5-fluorouracil-based regimen was followed in community practice.

The investigators found that adjuvant chemotherapy use increased from 39% in 1991 to 64% in 2002, and that it improved five-year survival from about 8% in 1991 to more than 16% in 1997. The benefits of adjuvant chemotherapy were lower in black patients and those with high-grade cancers. Women and the elderly had the same benefit from the treatment, but were treated less often.

The authors conclude that the conference's intent has been achieved but that "a substantial fraction of patients are still not receiving adjuvant chemotherapy." Authors of an accompanying editorial added, "Hopefully, further progress in the knowledge of adjuvant therapy will have a more rapid influence on clinical practice in the near future."

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