The Mark Hughes Foundation is a charity raising funds to support research, raise awareness for brain cancer and support brain cancer patients.

MHF Scientific Committee Member Mike Fay has been to ASCO in Chicago

29th June 2016

In a boost for international brain cancer research, a phase III clinical trial involving MHF Scientific Committee member Dr Mike Fay has significantly improved survival rates for elderly patients in Australia with glioblastoma (GBM).

The study found that adding the oral chemotherapy drug Temozolomide during short-course radiation therapy, followed by monthly maintenance doses of Temozolomide, reduced the risk of death by 33 per cent!

Glioblastoma is the most common primary brain cancer in adults and among the top five causes of death due to cancer. Claiming an estimated 1,000 Australians each year, glioblastoma occurs primarily in older people; the average age at diagnosis is 64 years.

Dr Fay, a radiation oncologist and conjoint senior lecturer at both the University of Newcastle and University of Queensland, had the honour of presenting his findings at the highly prestigious American Society of Clinical Oncology(ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago recently.

It's the first study to test the combination of Temozolomide and radiation therapy in older adults, who account for half of all patients with this disease. While side effects were slightly greater among patients receiving Temozolomide, overall quality of life was similar in both patient groups.

Dr Mike Fay says this practice-changing study would help treat elderly patients with GBM: “It’s a great example of international collaboration answering an important question in an uncommon tumour. It’s important to learn how to best use the cancer treatments we already have available.

“This study does this by shortening the radiotherapy course and adding Temozolomide chemotherapy. It also shows the benefit of testing the tumour to predict the chance of response. In patients who have a specific genetic marker the benefit of Temozolomide is significantly reduced.”

Researcher Dr Claire Phillips said that in the past there had been a tendency to be “gentle” when treating older patients with GBM because the prognosis was thought to be universally dismal and there was a reluctance to subject people to possible side-effects if they are only going to live for a short time.

“This study shows us that the prognosis is poor but perhaps not as bad as is generally believed. Importantly, it provides good evidence that older patients who have GBM, but who are otherwise quite healthy, benefit from moderately aggressive therapy without causing terrible toxicity,” she said.

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