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Advanced Cervical Cancer: Trial Therapy Offers New Hope

Keith Brofsky/Thinkstock(RIO DE JANEIRO) -- Researchers have made great strides in early detection and prevention for cervical cancer, the third-most common cancer in women, including the HPV vaccine. But with all the progress, there are still thousands of women with advanced disease, and the five-year survival rate for late-stage cervical cancer is 15 percent. That number may now climb dramatically, if the results of a trial for Erlotinib, now in its second phase, proves typical.

The standard care for advanced cervical cancer is chemo-radiation and Cisplatin, a nonspecific drug. Erlotinib, the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitor, is a type of biologic medication targeting growth receptors in the cancerous cells -- they can’t grow and cancer recedes.

For the study, which is published in the journal Cancer, Brazilian researchers at the Instituto de Cancer in Rio de Janeiro conducted a small trial in 36 women with Stage II and III cervical cancer (which now has a survival rate of 40 percent). After 77 weeks of treatment, all but two patients saw a complete disappearance of the cancer. At two and three years out, 92 percent and 80 percent of women survived, respectively.

Side effects of Erlotinib were generally manageable with patients experiencing mostly rashes and diarrhea.  

According to the study authors, this is the first study to show that a target agent has promising activity against locally advanced cervical cancer. Still, more research is needed as the data presented in the trial is only preliminary.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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