Queen's University

Chemotherapy timing key to colon cancer survival

James Biagi has found that a delay between surgery and chemotherapy can lead to a decrease in overal survival and disease-free survival for CRC patients.

A Queen’s University-led study has found that a four-week wait between colorectal cancer (CRC) surgery and the start of chemotherapy is associated with a significant 14 per cent decrease in both overall survival and disease-free survival in patients.

“It’s been known for some time that chemotherapy following surgery improves survival in patients with CRC, but the optimal timing for the start of treatment was unknown,” says James Biagi, the head of the Department of Oncology at Queen’s and medical oncologist at Kingston General Hospital. “Our findings indicate that clinicians and health systems managers need to take steps to ensure that the time between surgery and chemotherapy is as short as reasonably possible.”

The study findings also support the idea that chemotherapy may still have some benefit for patients who cannot start treatment until four or five months after surgery instead of the traditionally recommended three-month window.

This finding was based on a review and analysis of 10 studies involving 15,410 CRC patients.

Postoperative complications and long health care system wait times are the two main reasons chemotherapy is often delayed. The researchers believe cancer-system jurisdictions could turn their attention to wait times to improve the outcomes of cancer patients.

These findings were recently presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology 2011 Annual Meeting in Chicago and will be published in the next edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Last updated at 4:55 pm EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
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