New hope for women battling cervical cancer

Jane Kirby

Women with cervical cancer were given new hope today after research showed a combination therapy cuts the risk of dying by 23pc.

Cisplatin is a widely used chemotherapy drug which damages cancer cells and is used for a number of cancers including those of the cervix, bowel, head and neck and lung.

Now, research carried out in Britain has shown that adding cisplatin to radiotherapy to treat cervical cancer cuts the chance of dying by 23pc.

It was already known that the combination can cure cervical cancer, but this is the first long-term data showing how much death rates can fall by.

Cisplatin contains the metal platinum and works by affecting the DNA within cancer cells to kill them off.

According to the Irish Cancer society, about 200 women in this country are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. It is the second most common female cancer in Europe.

Former reality TV star Jade Goody is one of the most high-profile victims of the disease.

She died from cervical cancer last year.

Cancer expert Dr Paul Symonds led the new study, which is being described as a significant advance.

He and colleagues in London and Manchester examined data for cisplatin combined with radiotherapy and compared it with that for patients given radiotherapy on its own.

The study involved the case histories of more than 1,000 women from 42 cancer treatment centres in the UK, which were collected in 2001/02.

Over a five-year follow-up, treatments were recorded and notes completed, including on whether the cancer returned.


Dr Symonds said the combination of cisplatin and radiotherapy was already saving lives but his new research showed a significant fall in death risk.

"What the national audit has shown is that the addition of cisplatin improves survival," he said.

"The addition of cisplatin reduces the odds of death by 23 per cent.

"As this is curative treatment we can genuinely say that this is a reduction in the odds of death.

"This audit showed a marked improvement in five-year survival of locally advanced cervix cancer compared to the last national audit of patients who were treated in 1993."

The latest research, supported by the UK's Medical Research Council, was published in the journal Clinical Oncology.