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Chemo Drug Improves Stomach Cancer Survival for Japanese Patients
Date:10/31/2007

Researchers aren't sure if drug would have same benefit for Caucasians

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Treatment of stomach cancer with an experimental chemotherapy drug after surgery improved survival rates for Japanese patients, a new study found.

The results of the trial won't mean much for Americans with stomach cancer, because the drug, designated S-1, is classified as "investigational" in the United States. But the study results could add impetus to the use of drug and/or radiation therapy against stomach cancer, U.S. experts said.

"This is the third large study that demonstrates a significant benefit of adjuvant (combination) therapy either before or after surgery for gastric cancer," said Dr. Manish Shah, an assistant attending oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

Until relatively recently, it had generally been thought that drug or radiation therapy for stomach cancer wouldn't accomplish much, Shah said. "With less than one-year survival with metastatic disease, there may have been a sense that it didn't do any good," he said.

Metastatic means that the gastric cancer has spread outside the stomach, establishing microscopic colonies beyond the reach of surgery. But the almost 1,060 participants in the Japanese trial were potentially curable with surgery, because the disease had not spread. Half were assigned S-1 treatment plus surgery, while the other half had surgery followed by observation alone.

The trial, scheduled to last three years, was stopped after 12 months, because the survival rate for the S-1 group was 80.1 percent, compared to 70.1 percent for the surgery-only group.

The findings are published in the Nov. 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

S-1 had been used in some U.S. trials but was abandoned because of the high rate of side effects, Shah said. Japanese people apparently metabolize the drug d
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