Colorectal Cancer: New Treatments, Improved Prognosis
New drugs show promise, but more research needs to be done.
Treatment Before Surgery for Colorectal Cancer
Traditionally, chemotherapy and radiation have been used after surgery. This
approach is called adjuvant therapy. The goal is to kill any cancer cells that
might have survived the operation.
But doctors are also using an approach called neoadjuvant therapy --
treatment before surgery. The advantage is that the treatment can make the
tumor smaller and easier to remove surgically.
"There's growing acceptance that using chemotherapy and radiation before
surgery is more convenient and gives better results," Hoff says. "It's
a trend that's gaining momentum around the world, but especially in the
Keeping Treatment Advances in Perspective
While these advances in treatment are cause for enthusiasm, none of them are
the magic bullet that researchers hoped to discover.
Saltz points out that the average life expectancy for someone with
metastatic colon cancer in 1995 was about 11 months. Now in 2006, using the
best treatments, it's about two years.
"There are two ways to look at those numbers," says Saltz. "You
could say that it's great that over the last decade, we doubled the life
expectancy of someone with metastatic colon cancer. On the other hand, you
could also say that over the last ten years, all we managed to do was add about
twelve months. Both statements are true."
But experts agree that while the steps may be frustratingly small, we are
still moving forward. They may not be flashy, but some of the most important
advances may come in the details -- tinkering with different dosages, treatment
regimens, and combinations of drugs. Hopefully, with time and research, all of
these smaller steps may add up to something big.