Does intensive follow benefit Bowel cancer patients?

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The old adage “prevention is better than cure” is mostly true with regards to cancer if you can do it.

If you can’t prevent it , at least catch it early, has been the prime motive behind screening tests for breast, cervical, bowel, lung and prostate cancers. (“early is better”). Cancers that are detected at an early stage can offer a better chance of curative treatment.

So one might logically expect that intensive monitoring and early diagnosis of a cancer relapse or a secondary cancer after initial treatment can be immensely helpful.

But the evidence for intensive hospital follow-up visits and investigations is weak for most cancers except for some cancers such as Testicular Cancers which are highly curable.

Intensive monitoring after bowel cancer treatment can detect treatable cancers. To confirm the benefit of early detection of relapse by intensive monitoring , a trial was conducted comparing intensive follow up versus routine follow up ( in France and Belgium).

Data presented at ESMO ( European Society of Medical Oncology) shows that the intensive follow with scans can detect cancer recurrences which can be treated by further surgery. But unfortunately the intensive follow up did NOT lead to longer life expectancy.

The results might be counterintuitive but after an average follow up more than six years, this trial demonstrates that intensive follow is NOT always best. Scans might be done for psychological reassurance but they could end up causing significant anxiety.

When there are resource constraints (e.g low economic countries) , one has to be careful about frequents routine scans for those without symptoms.

During COVID-19, even in rich countries such as UK where there might be huge waiting lists, one has to consider prioritising scans for those who need most.

References

1. ESMO Daily reporter: INTENSIVE FOLLOW-UP INCREASES FREQUENCY OF CURATIVE INTENT SECONDARY SURGERY IN COLORECTAL CANCER.

2. DRE is useless for follow up of prostate cancer patients. https://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/11/03/dre-useless-follow-prostate-cancer-patients

3. Cancer patients follow up and a new role for GPs. https://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/11/03/cancer-patients-follow-and-new-role-gps

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Once a week chemotherapy is not superior to Chemotherapy given once every 3-weeks

Advanced ovarian cancer is treated by chemotherapy. A pre ious study of Japanese ovarian cancer patients RT showed significantly increased survival in those treated with dose-dense weekly paclitaxel compared to the standard three-weekly schedule.

Data from an international trial called ICON8 was presented at the ESMO Virtual Congress 2020, this week.

The final analysis of ICON8 “provides conclusive evidence that although weekly dose-dense chemotherapy can be successfully administered as first-line treatment for ovarian cancer, it has no survival advantage over the standard chemotherapy given once every 3 weeks.

ICON8: Overall survival results in a GCIG phase III randomised controlled trial of weekly dose-dense chemotherapy in first line epithelial ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal carcinoma treatment. Citation. Annals of Oncology (2020) 31 (suppl_4): S551-S589. 10.1016/annonc/annonc276

ESMO Daily Reporter: OVARIAN CANCER: FIRST-LINE DOSE-DENSE CHEMOTHERAPY IS NOT SUPERIOR TO STANDARD 3-WEEKLY CHEMOTHERAPY.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

A novel drug Osimertinib reduces risk of Brain cancer secondaries in lung cancer patients

Traditional intravenous Chemotherapy agents are often thought NOT to be highly effective in treating and preventing brain secondaries. This is because of the penal blood brain barrier.

Data presented at ESMO ( European Society of Medical Oncology) presidential symposium shows that the Osimertinib is highly active and significantly reduces risk of brain secondaries.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Cancer and COVID-19

Cancer patients, as expected, did badly during the 1st wave of the COVID-19 pandemic

Data presented at ESMO ( European Society of Medical Oncology) shows that Cancers had – higher rates of Hospitalisation, higher risk of Complications and increased risk of Death.

Elderly cancer patients on the whole did very badly but surprisingly cancer patients under age of 50 did far worse than their peers without cancer.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Immunotherapy not superior to Chemotherapy in 1st line treatment of bladder cancer

Immunotherapy has revolutionised the treatment of many advanced cancers such Skin cancer Melanoma and Kidney cancers.

Immunotherapy is a standard treatment for 2nd line treatment of bladder cancer.

Two recent trials presented at ESMO virtual meeting explored the use of immunotherapy in 1st line setting. (Pembrolizumab and Durvalumab).

Immunotherapy alone, or in combination with Chemotherapy was not superior even in patients selected by markers thought to favour immunotherapy alone.

For most bladder cancer patients immunotherapy remains a excellent 2nd line option or as a maintenance treatment option.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Hope and incurable Cancer: does hope torment or does it help to cope?

A diagnosis of incurable and advanced cancer is often a massive shock to everyone.

Should we ask them to face reality , accept death and extinguish all hope.

Or should we be offering hope of living a bit longer with treatments while being honest with prognosis.

Hope can be tormenting to some.

Hope can be comforting to some.

What are you views?

Contribute your views at online rapid response @BMJ journal

Don’t torment me with hope. BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3016 (Published 09 September 2020)Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m3016

In defence of Hope: https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3016/rr-3

Are Routine blood tests essential during follow up of low grade Lymphoma?

Bloods tests have the potential to pick up various abnormalities including cancer related abnormalities during follow up of cancers.

But , many patients would be surprised to know that there is ongoing debate about usefulness of routine blood tests atleast in some cancers !

In a recent study, Australian investigators assessed the role of routine blood tests during monitoring of patients with low grade lymphoma.

They found that routine blood tests rarely found or detected disease progression in patients who did not have any symptoms.

References

Routine Blood Tests in Asymptomatic Patients With Indolent Lymphoma Have Limited Ability to Detect Clinically Significant Disease Progression. DOI: 10.1200/JOP.19.00771 JCO Oncology Practice – published online before print June 25, 2020. PMID: 32584701

Effectiveness of Routine Blood Testing in Detection of Disease During Active Surveillance for Indolent Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. By Matthew Stenger. Posted: 7/16/2020 1:40:00 PM . Last Updated: 7/29/2020 1:59:00 PM

Utility of Routine Surveillance Laboratory Testing in Detecting Relapse in Patients With Classic Hodgkin Lymphoma in First Remission: Results From a Large Single-Institution Study. DOI: 10.1200/JOP.19.00733 JCO Oncology Practice – published online before print May 5, 2020. PMID: 32369413

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of publication and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Plain English Medical Letters to Patients

Writing letters to patients in plain English without medical jargon is a gift that only a few doctors possess.

Personalising complex medical terminology in a letter dictated over a few minutes is NOT an inherent skill possessed by many doctors including those who are native English speakers.

Dictating Plain English medical letters would take considerable time and effort – particularly if letters are going to succinctly summarise everything from a medical consultation.

In UK, with regards to Cancer, we are lucky to have cancer charities who do a good job of providing information in plain English ( E.g Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support, Prostate Cancer UK).

Cancer Patients in UK also have the support of Cancer Nurse Specialists ( CNS ) who do a fantastic job of guiding patients through their cancer journey and clarify all medical jargon to patients.

Other specialities might not have the resources that are available to cancer patients. But, on the whole, Clinic Time slots are precious. Many UK specialists have long waiting lists.

So if further time and effort is to be expended in busy clinics for dictating plain English Letters – in addition to the usual Medical letters to GP – good clinical evidence is needed to demonstrate that separate plain English letters do benefit patients in a meaningful way.

Please do read the BMJ article and put forward your views in the rapid response section.

Access the article at: http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/bmj.m949

Toll-free link:
http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/bmj.m949?ijkey=nxJ9CdIVHKZW1Jd&keytype=ref

Disclaimer:

The views expressed here are my personal views and do not represent the views of any other professional organisation I am associated with…

Exciting new immunotherapy treatment !

Test tube lab

The holy grail of cancer treatment is design a drug that is highly lethal to cancerous tissue but completely spares the normal tissues.

Scientists at Cardiff University have discovered immune cells which could provide such a clever treatment.

It is still early days. The principle has been proven in lab. But to be a useful treatment that can be used in cancer patients, it is still far off.

This particular novel form of immunotherapy using T cells is still in early stages and so many hurdles have to be overcome before this discovery could be employed in cancer treatment.

Nevertheless, it has certainly excited many researchers in the field of cancer and the paper has been published by a premier scientific journal.

 

References:

Original scientific paper. Genome-wide CRISPR–Cas9 screening reveals ubiquitous T cell cancer targeting via the monomorphic MHC class I-related protein MR1

BBC news. Immune discovery ‘may treat all cancer’. By James Gallagher. Health and science correspondent

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only. See your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant for you.

Veliparib : Another new drug for treatment of Ovarian Cancer

Veliparib trial data has certainly brought more options to the table in treatment of advanced Ovarian cancer.

Trial data presented at ESMO congress at Barcelona shows that first line therapy with Veliparib is beneficial.

Acknowledgement: Copyright of Slides: Authors and ESMO

References

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only. See your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant for you.

New drug combination for Ovarian Cancer (Olaparib and Bevacizumab)

New trial data presented at the ESMO cancer Congress 2019 in Barcelona, Spain, show excellent results for the combination of Olaparib and Bevacizumab. The combination looks likely to become standard of care in at-least a subgroup of patients.

The expert discussing the trial data did raise the possibility that most benefit seems to come from Olaparib in patients with BRCA mutations and whether Olaparib alone instead combination is enough for this group. More data is awaited.

References

1. ESMO 2019 congress press release. Ovarian Cancer: More Women Benefit from Maintenance Combined Targeted Therapy [ESMO 2019 Press Release]

Acknowledgement: Copyright of Slides: Authors and ESMO

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only. See your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant for you.

Niraparib : New treatment for new diagnosed Ovarian Cancer

A landmark study presented at ESMO congress at Barcelona shows significant benefits for maintenance treatment with the drug Niraparib.

Niraparib is likely to become a standard treatment in a much more widely group of advanced ovarian cancer patients.

Many clinicians will be weighing up Niraparib Vs Olaparib in Some patients and Niraparib vs Bevacizumab in other groups of patients.

Reference

1. Niraparib Prolongs PFS in Patients with Newly Diagnosed Advanced Ovarian Cancer. ESMO press release.

Acknowledgement: Copyright of Slides: Authors and ESMO

Melanoma Skin cancers: significant improvement in life expectancy with immunotherapy

Advanced melanoma skin cancers used to carry a dismal prognosis.

Data presented at Barcelona European Cancer Congress ( ESMO) shows the prognosis has improved remarkably in the recent years.

Fifty percent of patients are now alive for at-least five years. It is quite a remarkable achievement for immunotherapy.

References

1. ESMO press release. One in Two Patients with Metastatic Melanoma Alive after Five Years with Combination Immunotherapy [ESMO 2019 Press Release].

2.BBC News. Skin cancer: Half of people surviving advanced melanoma. By James Gallagher. Health and science correspondent, BBC News

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only. See your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant for you.