Good news for patients with testicular cancer! A new clinical trial has shown that using just half of the quantity of chemotherapy traditionally administered in standard care treatments can prevent the cancer from returning. Typically two cycles of chemotherapy treatment are given to men with testicular cancer, as the disease can be aggressive and is known to return in other parts of the body within two years after surgery. However, now research suggests one chemo cycle may be just as effective at impeding the cancer’s return.
The trial was led by scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and funded by Cancer Research UK and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Charity. Almost 250 men with early-stage testicular cancer and a high risk of their cancer returning following surgery participated in the trial. The results from the trial were published recently in the journal European Urology.
Testicular cancer affects principally young men, with many men receiving diagnoses in their twenties or thirties. Although survival rates are very high, the side effects of chemotherapy can pose negative long-term impacts, such as hearing loss. Because it has been shown in previous studies that longer exposure to chemo can increase the side effects and long-lasting impacts on patients’ health, these researchers wanted to see how to improve the quality of life for patients undergoing treatment for the cancer.
In the trial, participants with testicular cancer were administered a single three-week cycle of chemotherapy called BEP, which is a mix of the drugs bleomycin, etoposide and the platinum agent cisplatin.
Professor Robert Huddart is a Professor of Urological Cancer at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and a Consultant in Urological Oncology at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. He commented on the profound impact that halving chemotherapy treatment could have on patients’ present and future health:
"Men with testicular cancer who are at high risk of recurrence have generally been treated with two cycles of chemotherapy -- but our new study found that one cycle was enough to stop their tumor from coming back. Reducing the overall dose of chemotherapy could spare young men who have their whole lives ahead of them from long-term side effects, and also means they will need fewer hospital visits for their treatment.
"This new trial is already changing clinical practice on a global scale and is set to improve patients' quality of life as well as reducing the cost of testicular cancer treatment. Reducing the number of cycles and the dosage of chemotherapy for testicular cancer could save the NHS money, and free up valuable hospital time and resources."
As Professor Huddart mentions, the positive news has already percolated into clinical practice, with an observable reduction in the number of hospital admissions (which ultimately lowers treatment costs).
"Our study has found strong evidence to suggest that testicular cancer chemotherapy can be safely reduced from two cycles to just one -- making their treatment shorter, kinder and cheaper," stated Professor Emma Hall, Deputy Director of the Clinical Trials and Statistics Unit at The Institute of Cancer Research, London.