An investigation published Jan. 20 in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute reveals that individuals in the general population with stage III colon cancer showed improved survival rates when they were administered with 5-fluorouracil (5FU), a commonly used cancer treatment, in combination with oxaliplatin.

Colon cancer is one of the leading causes for illness and death worldwide. In 2011, an estimated 101,340 individuals in the U.S. were affected by the disease. Approximately one-third of individuals are diagnosed with stage III or node-positive colon cancer.

Although randomized human trials have demonstrated that 5FU administered with oxaliplatin enhanced outcomes among individuals with stage III colon cancer, researchers do not know what effect this combined therapy has outside human trials.

Furthermore, less than 2% of individuals with colon cancer participate in randomized clinical trials, and they are often healthier, less racially diverse and younger than the overall cancer patient population.

Hanna K. Sanoff M.D., and assistant professor of Medicine, Hematology and Oncology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and her team, set out to determine what effects combined therapy might have on individuals with stage III colon cancer in the general population. The team collected data from patients using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results registry linked to Medicare claims (SEER-Medicare), as well as addition cancer registries.

All patients were aged 75 or younger, had stage III colon cancer and received chemotherapy within 120 days of surgery. The researchers then compared overall survival (OS) between patients who received standard chemotherapy with those who received combined therapy.

They discovered that combined therapy was just as effective for individuals with stage III colon cancer in the general population as in participants from randomized clinical trials. Furthermore, the team found that oxaliplatin demonstrated improved survival rates in patients with greater comorbidity, and older and minority patients.

The researchers explain:

“Physicians and patients should be reassured from our findings that oxaliplatin is associated with marginally but consistently superior survival for patients diagnosed before 75 years in community settings.”

The researchers feel that in light of the evidence that combined therapy has proven efficacious in the general population, it is now important to concentrate on high-risk subgroups, such as individuals over the age of 75 years, racially diverse minorities, and patients with co-morbid conditions.

Written by Grace Rattue