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Improved Treatment Raises Medulloblastoma Survival Rate

A team of investigators led by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has announced that improvements in the treatment of the childhood brain cancer medulloblastoma have// significantly increased the rate of survival of children with this disease.

The treatment increased the overall five-year survival for 86 children with average-risk medulloblastoma from the current rate of 70 percent to 85 percent; and raised the rate of survival among the 48 high-risk patients from 55 percent to 70 percent. Patients are considered to be at average risk of treatment failure if their cancer has not spread following initial surgery to remove the tumor, or if the remaining tumor is very small. Patients are considered at high risk of failure if their tumor has spread following surgery or if the remaining tumors are larger than those of low-risk patients.

A report on these results appears in the September 7 issue of Lancet Oncology.

The investigators were able to achieve the improved survival rates while reducing the amount of radiation and length of chemotherapy following surgery in average-risk patients from levels used in standard treatments, according to Amar Gajjar, M.D., co-chair of the St. Jude Department of Oncology and director of its Neuro-Oncology Division. The chemotherapy for average-risk patients was completed in 16 weeks, versus the standard treatment, which lasts 48 weeks. The new treatment not only reduced radiation to the brain and spinal cord, but also reduced the level of two chemotherapy drugs by 75 percent and 50 percent, respectively. This reduction in radiation and chemotherapy holds promise for lessening the long-term, troublesome side effects on intellectual development of young patients treated for this cancer, Gajjar said.

In addition to improving overall five-year survival of average-risk patients to 85 percent, this group had an 83 percent rate of event-free survival and a rate of five-year, event-free surviva
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