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Chemo Plus Radiation Prevents Bladder Cancer Return

Study Shows Benefits of Adding Chemotherapy to Radiation Therapy
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Side Effects of Treatment continued...

Nearly all patients in both groups -- 80% to 90% of those who got radiation alone and 85% to 95% of those who also got chemo -- reported some side effects such as nausea or fatigue.

After treatment, the rate of side effects was the same in both groups. "Seventy percent of patients reported no side effects at all after three months," he says.

By two years after treatment, about 60% of people in both groups were still alive. If the study was larger, "we might see a difference in survival rates. This study was not powered to show a difference," says Phillip Devlin, MD, a radiation oncologist at Harvard Medical School who was not involved with the study.

Bladder Cancer in Men

Bladder cancer affects about 70,000 Americans each year, according to ASTRO. It is four times more common in men than in women and two times more common in whites than African-Americans. Cure rates for advanced invasive bladder cancer are generally poor, with less than 40% of patients living more than five years after diagnosis.

In the U.S., the most common treatment for invasive bladder cancer is complete removal of the bladder, which means the patient has to wear a bag to collect urine for life, James says.

"We've shown that the addition of a small amount of chemotherapy to radiation gives you very good control of the bladder even in the very elderly, 80-plus patient who often can't tolerate surgery. This may shift the balance from surgery to chemoradiation as the primary treatment for many patients with invasive bladder cancer," James says.

Devlin tells WebMD that in the U.S., patients who are not fit for surgery or don't want it are increasingly being offered a combination of chemo and radiation.

"This is a well-designed study confirming a trend across oncology showing combination therapies are often better than single therapies," he says.

This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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