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Study Examines Long-Term Effects of Cancer Treatment

Pat Guth contributes news and insightful content for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

Patricia Guth

November 06, 2012

Rochester, NY - With the number of cancer survivors growing each year, doctors and researchers have begun to realize that it’s necessary to take a closer look at how treatments like chemotherapy, which are historically extremely tough on the human body, are affecting the lives of survivors five, ten, and twenty years into the future.

An article in The Democrat and Chronicle, a publication from Rochester, NY, reports that a new study will shortly be underway to examine the long-term effects of platinum-based chemotherapy, used to treat a variety of cancers including mesothelioma. The study, conducted by Dr. Lois B. Travis, director of the Rubin Center for Cancer Survivorship, the Department of Radiation Oncology at the James P . Wilmot Cancer Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center, will first focus on 4,000 survivors of testicular cancer who were treated with cisplatin.

The goal of the study, says Travis, is to examine and understand the genetic make-up of the patients and to then determine which survivors might be most susceptible to long-term toxicity. Once those parameters are discovered, it may be possible to offer a lower dose or an alternative treatment for those who are most likely to suffer in the long run, she explains.

“We’re thinking about their entire lifespan,” said Travis, who has long studied cancer survivors not only in the U.S. but also in Europe and Canada. “We’ve made great inroads in treating cancer in the last few decades. We’ve moved beyond just the cure to examine what are the late toxicities.”

The study is being funded by the National Cancer Institute and also includes participants from other major cancer cancers, including Dana Farber, Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Pacific Northwest Consortium, University of Chicago, University of Indiana, University of Pennsylvania, all in the U.S., and the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.

Travis explained that platinum-based chemo was introduced in the 1970s and has been used to treat lung, colon, cervical, ovarian, bladder, testicular and pancreatic cancers. Mesothelioma patients usually receive treatment that includes a combination of cisplatin and Alimta®.

Some possible long-term side effects of treatment with platinum agents include ringing in the ears or hearing loss as well as tingling in the hands and feet. It isn’t known why these symptoms occur or who is a candidate for them. It’s questions like these that Travis and her colleagues hope to answer.

Recruitment for the study will begin in 2013. In the meantime, Travis wants cancer patients and survivors to know that this so-called “translational research” is aimed at “finding better ways to care for the patient, not just treat the disease.”

“This is what we are about. What can we do that will make a difference for cancer survivors,” she reiterated.

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