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Injection hope for cancer sufferers

Abdominal chemotherapy increases life by an extra three years on average

Hollywood actress Kathy Bates survived a battle with ovarian cancer nine years ago. Last year she was also diagnosed with breast cancer and had a double mastectomy.Hollywood actress Kathy Bates survived a battle with ovarian cancer nine years ago. Last year she was also diagnosed with breast cancer and had a double mastectomy.

Injecting drugs straight into the abdomen can extend the lives of some women with ovarian cancer, research has shown.

Administering chemotherapy in this way increased survival by an extra three years on average – but only in women with a specific genetic make-up.

Scientists compared the survival of 400 women who either had the abdominal injections or had drugs infused into a vein.

The abdominal treatment increased lifespans by an average of 36 months for women with low levels of a protein made by the gene BRCA1, which is linked to ovarian and breast cancer.

No significant difference in survival was seen in patients with normal levels of the protein.

The research is published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Lead author Thomas Krivak, from Magee Women’s Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh, US, said: “This research should allow us to target a particular group of ovarian cancer patients and give them an improved outlook by making a very simple change to their treatment.

“When chemotherapy is given directly into the abdomen, it reaches the cancerous cells in a higher concentration than when it’s administered into a vein. This means that it can work more effectively.

“This type of administration of chemotherapy seems to have the greatest improvement in outcomes for women who have low levels of the BRCA1 protein.”

Martin Ledwick, head information nurse at the charity Cancer Research UK, said: “Further work needs to be done to verify these results but the initial findings are extremely encouraging.

“This study could mark another step on the path to personalised medicine, where treatments are tailored to a patient’s individual needs and genetic make-up to give the best possible benefit.”

Simon Newman, head of research at the charity Target Ovarian Cancer, said: “The results from this clinical study are incredibly promising. Although it will require further confirmatory studies, this could deliver a three-year survival benefit for a significant proportion of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.”

Of the 393 patients studied, 282 experienced disease progression and 255 died. Among those patients with low BRCA1 activity, mid-point survival was 84 months for those who had abdominal injections, compared with 48 months for those who had vein injections.

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