Are colon cancer patients getting the best treatment possible?

Are colon cancer patients getting the best treatment possible?

March 12, 2014

March 12, 2014

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, with blue ribbons symbolizing hope for those suffering from the disease.
 
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., second only to lung cancer. Every year, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease, with more than 50,000 deaths.
 
A recent article in Medscape Medical News explored the treatment regimens for individuals diagnosed with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC), asking if patients are getting the most up-to-date treatment for their disease.
 
The answer in a new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, says the answer is seemingly no.
 
Of the 4877 mCRC patients examined, 53% received second-line therapies and 28% received third-line therapies, suggesting that only a minority were exposed to all active agents in the course of their treatment.
 
The patients were treated at academic, private practice, and nonacademic hospital-based centers across the United States from 2004 to 2011.
 
For colon cancer expert and Biodesign executive director Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD, these results were not unexpected.
 
"I find the results of this study interesting, but not surprising," said DuBois. The variability found in the study could exist for numerous reasons, he told Medscape Medical News.
 
These include inappropriate attention by practitioners to clinical guidelines and updates; local pharmaceutical reps giving providers biased information; variations in high-volume and low-volume oncology practices because of specialization; new drugs for the treatment of patients with mCRC; and an attempt by some practitioners to personalize care for mCRC patients based on molecular profiles, microsatellite instability status, and other characteristics of the disease, Dr. DuBois noted.
 
He added that colorectal cancer is interesting because a couple of decades ago, there was really only 1 drug to treat the disease — 5-fluorouracil.
 
"Over the past 10 to 15 years, a number of new options have been approved by the FDA, some of which have had less than dramatic effects on overall survival. However, these targeted therapies did extend survival by a couple of months, which was statistically significant," Dr. DuBois explained. "It seems that clinical oncologists who treat patients with mCRC have not settled on what they agree are the most effective treatment regimens."

 

Written by: Joe Caspermeyer