Combined chemotherapy and radiation treatment appears to extend the lives of older patients with brain cancer, new research finds.
The study involved more than 560 older patients with glioblastoma, the most common malignant brain cancer in adults. The average age of disease onset is 65 and there is no cure, according to the study.
On average, patients who received the chemotherapy pill temozolomide plus a short course of radiation therapy survived two months longer than those who underwent radiation alone, an international team of researchers found.
And, many patients in the combination treatment group survived nearly 14 months — about twice that compared to those who received radiation alone, the researchers reported.
“Everyone benefited to a varying degree,” said co-principal investigator Dr. Normand Laperriere.
“There has been no clear standard of care for treatment of glioblastoma in the elderly,” explained Laperriere, a radiation oncologist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, which is affiliated with the University of Toronto. He is also a professor of radiation oncology at the university.
“For patients under 65, the protocol is six weeks of radiation therapy plus the drug, but this regimen is poorly tolerated by older patients,” he said.
The study included patients from ages 65 to 79. It was partly funded by drug maker Merck.
Laperriere said the drug was well-tolerated, and no differences in quality of life were observed between the two groups.
“We anticipate this combined therapy will be the treatment strategy broadly adopted around the world for patients 65 and older because it makes a significant difference in the course of this terrible disease,” Laperriere said in a university news release.
Results appear in the March 16 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The American Brain Tumor Association has more on glioblastoma.