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Colon cancer study shows combining drug treatments can be risky

By Kathlyn Stone     Feb 7, 2009 in Science
While combining different cancer drugs is effective with some cancers such as lung, a Dutch study found combining certain new drugs caused tumors to grow faster.
Sometimes combining drugs is helpful for cancer patients, but in the case of colon cancer, more is not better. In fact, patients receiving a combination of new drugs had faster growing tumors and lower comfort levels.
Led by Dr. Jolien Tol of the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in the Netherlands, researchers enrolled 755 patients diagnosed with advanced colon cancer who had not yet received drug therapy for their cancers.
They wanted to test whether adding a new drug, cetuximab (Erbtux), to the standard treatment would stop tumor growth, as had been indicated in smaller studies. The opposite occurred.
The 377 study volunteers who received Erbtux along with Avastin, the standard therapy, had faster growing tumors than those who received Avastin alone. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer in the United States. An estimated 145,000 cases of colon were diagnosed in 2005, and about 56,000 people died from the disease that year, according to the American Cancer Society. New studies suggest that colon cancers occur more often in African-American men.
More about Colon cancer, Drug therapy, Nejm
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