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Adjuvant Chemotherapy Benefits Colon Cancer Patients

Improves survival, especially in the first two years, with low recurrence rates

THURSDAY, Jan. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Adjuvant chemotherapy after surgery for colon cancer improves survival, largely by reducing the recurrence rate in the first two years, with low recurrence rates after five years, according to a report published online Jan. 5 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Daniel Sargent, Ph.D., from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues analyzed data on long-term recurrence and survival from 20,800 patients with stage II or III colon cancer from 18 randomized trials. The trials involved fluorouracil-based adjuvant therapy after curative surgical resection.

During the initial eight-year follow-up period, the researchers found that 35 percent of patients experienced recurrence and 38 percent died. Recurrence rates were less than 1.5 percent per year after the first five years and less than 0.5 percent per year after eight years, the report indicates. Adjuvant chemotherapy improved disease-free survival primarily in the first two years and largely benefited patients with stage III disease, the authors state.

"These results illustrate the following three important concepts for the management of early colon cancer: adjuvant fluorouracil-based treatment actually eradicates colon cancer cells, thereby curing patients; late relapses can occur, but after eight years, the notion of cure is appropriate; and most relapses occur in the first two years after surgery," Sargent and colleagues conclude.

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