Oct. 30, 2007 (Los Angeles) -- People with a type of brain cancer that was invariably fatal only five years ago now have a shot at living three, four, or even five years after diagnosis, European researchers report.
In a new study, four times as many people with a brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme who were given radiation and the drug Temodar survived for at least four years, compared with those treated with radiation alone.
The survival rate was even higher among people who didn't have symptoms or who had a favorable genetic makeup, says researcher Rene-Olivier Mirimanoff, MD, a radiation oncologist at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The findings were reported at the annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiation and Oncology (ASTRO).
A Deadly Brain Cancer
Glioblastoma multiforme is one of the most aggressive and difficult-to-treat types of brain cancer; it's is the tumor that killed the character Dr. Mark Green on the popular TV show ER. For years, surgery followed by radiation was the best treatment available, but it really didn't work very well, Mirimanoff says. Most patients lived only nine to 12 months from diagnosis and a few survived for two years.
The anticancer drug Temodar was approved in 2005 after research showed that twice as many people given the drug plus radiation survived for at least two years compared with those given radiation alone.
"There had been almost no progress for 30 years until this study," Mirimanoff says. Temodar quickly became the standard of care, he says, but doctors still didn't know if patients would survive over the long term.