New drugs hope for pancreatic cancer sufferers

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Pairing the chemotherapy drugs gemcitabine and capecitabine dramatically increases the chances of people with pancreatic cancer

A life-extending combination of drugs has been hailed as a ‘monumental’ breakthrough in the treatment of the deadliest cancer.

Pairing the chemotherapy drugs gemcitabine and capecitabine dramatically increases the chances of people with pancreatic cancer living at least five years, trial results have shown.

The treatment should now become the new standard of care for patients who have had surgery, experts say.

Pancreatic cancer is the deadliest of the 21 most common cancers, largely because it is often identified at a late stage. Each year about 9,600 people in the UK are diagnosed and 8,800 die. 

Just 5 per cent of sufferers can expect to live five years and only 1 per cent live for ten years. Survival rates have improved little since the early 1970s.

More than 700 patients took part in a University of Liverpool trial which compared post-surgery treatment using both drugs with gemcitabine alone.

The findings, published in The Lancet medical journal, showed that 29 per cent of patients receiving the drug combination lived at least five years. Just 16 per cent of patients restricted to gemcitabine survived that long.

Pancreatic Cancer UK is calling for the combination treatment to be made available to all eligible patients on the NHS. The move will result in about 100 extra patients each year living for five years or more, it is claimed.

Leanne Reynolds, the charity’s head of research, said: ‘These results are a monumental leap forward in pancreatic cancer treatment. We must now embrace this opportunity to provide those families with far more precious time together.’

Screening for bowel cancer from the age of 50 instead of 60 could dramatically boost survival chances, according to a charity.

Only patients in Scotland are screened from the age of 50, but Beating Bowel Cancer believes many more cases could be picked up by early checks. ‘It is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer and it’s time we changed the odds for patients in their 50s in England, Wales and Northern Ireland,’ said Judith Brodie, the charity’s director of services.

The Department of Health said it was rolling out an additional test that will see all men and women in England invited for bowel scope screening around the time of their 55th birthday.

A life-extending combination of drugs has been hailed as a ‘monumental’ breakthrough in the treatment of the deadliest cancer 

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