Dr. Andy

Reflections on medicine and biology among other things

Friday, March 11, 2005

Progress on Brain Cancer

Three studies in the NEJM this week show some tentative steps forward in treating brain tumors, in both adults and kids. One showed adding the chemotherapuetic agent temezolomide to radiation prolonged survival, the first study to definitively show this. A second study identified a genetic marker for patients likely to benefit from this medicine

The final study suggested surgery + chemotherapy for a type of brain tumors in children was as effective as surgery + radiation (based on historical controls) but the kids treated with chemotherapy had much less cognitive impairment (radiation is bad for the developing brain).

These are devastating illnesses that either kill or leave disabled many who suffer from them, so any progress is welcome.

Cancer in the brain is different from elsewhere in the body in that it can be very hard to remove the tumor even if it hasn't metastasized (spread). Elsewhere, if the cancer can be caught early, it can be removed and cured if it hasn't spread. But in the brain it is often impossible to remove all the tumor without doing serious damage


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