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Studies at Fox Chase Cancer Center Show Increased Survival Rates for Cervical Cancer

PHILADELPHIA (March 4, 1999) -- For the past decade, cervical cancer patients and their physicians at Fox Chase Cancer Center have been participating in a number of nationwide studies comparing different methods of treating cervical cancer. Now, the findings from these trials and other similar studies are going to change the way the disease is usually treated, according to a recent announcement from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Until now, surgery or radiation therapy alone has been considered the standard treatment for cervical cancer. In the studies, for women who required radiation therapy for treatment of cervical cancer, the risk of death from cervical cancer decreased by 30 to 50 percent when the chemotherapy drug, cisplatin, was administered along with radiation therapy. In a letter to physicians throughout the United States, the NIH's National Cancer Institute (NCI) will advise them to strongly consider adding chemotherapy to radiation therapy in the treatment of invasive cervical cancer.

The studies in which Fox Chase Cancer Center participated were a few of several around the country that showed it is more effective to treat the disease with radiation combined with chemotherapy rather than radiation therapy alone. In all of the studies, the cervical cancer patients were believed to be at increased risk for recurrence with radiation therapy alone. While the chemotherapy regimens differed among the trials, all investigated the addition of the drug cisplatin to standard radiation therapy. And in each of the trials, that combination was found to be more beneficial than radiation therapy alone.

Radiation oncologist Wayne Pinover, D.O. of Mount Airy, Pa., one of the investigators at Fox Chase, said that early results demonstrate a clear benefit for the women who received the cisplatin/radiation combination.

According to Dr. Pinover, "These findings are clear and remarkably consistent. They are likely to change the standard of care for women with invasive cervical cancer."

According to the American Cancer Society, 12,800 American women will be diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer in 1999. At one time, cervical cancer was one of the leading causes of cancer death for American women. It is now the ninth most deadly cancer. About 4,800 American women will die from cervical cancer this year. The main reason for the improved survival rate is the increased use of the Pap test, a screening procedure that permits diagnosis of pre-invasive and early invasive cancer.

The most important risk factor for cervical cancer is infection by HPV (human papilloma virus), which may result from having multiple sex partners. The American Cancer Society recommends that all women begin yearly Pap tests at age 18 or when they become sexually active, whichever occurs earlier.

The studies in which Fox Chase Cancer Center participated were multi-institution clinical trials conducted by the Southwestern Oncology Group (SWOG), Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG), and the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG). These groups are NCI-sponsored networks of institutions and physicians nationwide that conduct trials jointly. Results of the studies will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine and Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Fox Chase Cancer Center is one of 35 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the nation. The Center's activities include basic and clinical research, prevention, detection and treatment of cancer and community outreach programs.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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