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Trial Reveals New Therapy in Treating Brain Cancer Effective

Update Date: Apr 09, 2013 11:50 AM EDT

People suffering from a rare type of brain cancer known as primary CNS (central nervous system) lymphoma might have a new form of medical treatment soon. The phase two clinical trial testing the effectiveness of the new treatment recently produced positive results, suggesting that this form of therapy might be available soon. The researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, wanted to test the effects of using combination therapy, which involves the use of high-dose chemotherapy along with immune therapy. If this combination of treatments can continue to be effective in brain cancer patients, the use of whole-brain radiology, which has horrible side effects, can be avoided.

Whole-brain radiotherapy is currently being used to treat patients with this rare brain cancer. Radiotherapy uses the standard mixture of chemotherapy and is considered to be quite toxic despite being able to fight the cancer. Although this form of treatment can extend the lives of these patients, it can also lead to their deaths later on due to the toxicity levels. The researchers recruited 44 patients for their study. The patients were given the new form of treatment, which was a combination of chemotherapy with immune therapy. Immune therapy uses the patient's own cancer cells in devising a personalized way to attack the cancer. This option used a lower dosage of drugs and thus, it did not kill as many brain cells or lead to the deterioration of the patients' nervous system functions that radiotherapy would.

The researchers found that most of their patients were able to survive nearly five years after the trial. These patients displayed good results from the new method of treatment. The researchers found that lymphoma-free patient survival rates of those receiving this two-part treatment were double that of lymphoma-free patient survival rates who underwent brain radiotherapy trials. On top of that, the newer approach to primary CNS lymphoma appeared to be as effective for patients over 60 as it was for younger patients, which is significant because this type of brain cancer seems to afflict more people over the age of 65. Roughly 1,600 people are diagnosed with this rare disease per year within the United States.

The next step in this type of research will involve a randomized clinical trial that aims to test the effectiveness of the new treatment option on a much larger sample set of patients.

The trial findings were described in the journal, Clinical Oncology.

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