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Studies Shows Chemotherapy Improves Lung Cancer Survival

I’m Faith Lapidus with the VOA Special English Health Report.

Lung cancer is the most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer deaths around the world. There are more than one million new cases of lung cancer each year. And more than one million people die of lung cancer around the world every year. Smoking tobacco is the main cause of all lung cancer deaths.

When cancer is discovered in its early stages, traditional treatment includes removing the cancerous tumor. Patients with colon, breast and ovarian cancer also usually take chemotherapy drugs to improve their chances for survival.

But earlier studies had shown that chemotherapy drugs did little to improve survival rates for lung cancer patients. And the drugs often have side effects, such as nausea, extreme tiredness and diarrhea.

Now, the results of three studies show that chemotherapy helped improve five-year survival rates in people with early-stage lung cancer. Doctor Timothy Winton of the University of Alberta in Canada led one of the studies The study began in nineteen ninety-four.

The ten-year study involved more than four hundred eighty patients with early stage lung cancer. The patients lived in Canada and the United States. Those governments paid for the study, along with the drug company GlaxoSmithKline.

All of the patients had their lung cancer tumors removed. After their operations, some of the patients were given two chemotherapy drugs. They took the drugs once a week for sixteen weeks. The others were not given chemotherapy.

In patients who did not have chemotherapy, fifty-four percent survived for five years. But sixty-nine percent of the patients who had chemotherapy were still alive after five years. The study was published in June in the New England Journal of Medicine. Two other studies had similar findings.

Doctor Winton said chemotherapy drugs have improved over the years. He also said there are now better treatments for the side effects.

Doctors say the studies have already begun to change care for patients in the early stages of lung cancer. Experts are now advising doctors that chemotherapy should be given after surgery for some patients with early-stage lung cancer.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Cynthia Kirk. Our features are online at I’m Faith Lapidus.