New treatment could save 1,000

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The Independent Online
A new method of delivering anti-cancer drugs to patients after bowel cancer surgery might prevent about 1,000 deaths a year in the UK, the Imperial Cancer Research Fund says today.

The new approach, of feeding drugs directly into the liver, through a tube inserted during surgery (portal vein infusion), means that more of the drug reaches this gland than when drugs are delivered in the normal way - by mouth or injecting them into the bloodstream. Reaching the liver is essential because it is the most common site for recurrence of bowel cancer, which kills 18,000 people a year in the UK and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths.

Researchers at the charity's Cancer Studies Unit in Oxford carried out a review of data on 4,000 patients in 10 studies world-wide and found that portal vein infusion appeared to reduce deaths by 5 per cent. Professor Richard Peto, the unit's head, said: "PVI is an unusually convenient cancer treatment. It's given for just one week after surgery and has few major side-effects."

Portal Vein Chemotherapy for Colorectal Cancer, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2 April 1997. Annabel Ferriman