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Combo Therapy Shows Promise in Treating Brain Tumors

Radiation seeds, chemo wafers slowed disease, boosted survival

FRIDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Implantation of radioactive seeds and chemotherapy wafers following surgery shows promise in treating malignant brain tumors, a new study finds.

The early-phase clinical trial, led by researchers at The Neuroscience Institute at the University of Cincinnati and University Hospital, included 34 patients who had the combination therapy after surgery to remove recurrent glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).

The study, designed to assess the safety and effectiveness of simultaneous use of radioactive seeds and chemotherapy wafers, found that median patient survival was 69 weeks. Almost 25 percent (eight) of the patients survived two years. Patients with recurrent GBM who receive conventional treatment (chemotherapy) have a median survival of about 26 weeks.

About 25 percent of patients developed brain tissue death, which was treated with surgery or hyperbaric oxygen and did not affect survival. That rate of brain tissue death appeared to be higher than what's seen in patients treated with either seeds or wafers alone.

"Treatment of recurrent GBM presents a major challenge to neurosurgeons and neuro-oncologists," study author Dr. Ronald Warnick, a professor of neurosurgery, said in a prepared statement.

"Glioblastoma is an aggressive, highly malignant tumor with unclear boundaries. Because of its diffuse nature, surgeons are unable to remove it completely, and it regrows in the majority of patients. Our aim is to find a way to keep the infiltrating glioblastoma cells from growing into adjacent, health tissue," he said.

The radiation seeds, each about the size of a grain of rice, deliver radiation to the targeted area for six months. The chemotherapy wafers, which are about the size of a nickel, are placed along the surface of the brain.

Compared with the use of either one alone, the combination of the seeds and wafers appeared to further delay disease progression and increase length of patient survival, Warnick said.

However, he noted that the effectiveness of the combination therapy is not definitive, because this study did not include a control group.

The study was published in the February issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about brain tumors.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Cincinnati, news release, Jan. 18, 2008

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