The role of radiation and chemotherapy in brain cancer
Matt was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour called a glioblastoma - he's recently completed six weeks of radiation therapy. For patients like Matt, after having brain surgery the next step in brain cancer treatment is radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Another well-established part of treatment for brain cancer is chemotherapy, it is often given at the same time as other treatments such as radiation therapy.
“Typically, a patient who has surgery will receive radiation therapy after surgery. At this stage we often combine chemotherapy with the radiation because there is very good evidence that adding chemotherapy at that phase, improves the overall long-term outcomes,” said Professor Shackleton, Director of Oncology.
“Even after radiation therapy we typically treat with chemotherapy ongoing – in slightly different dosing and scheduling. There’s excellent clinical trial data that suggests the benefit from ongoing chemotherapy treatment after surgery and after radiation, often for 6-12 months.”
Professor Shackleton said although chemotherapy is an important treatment for brain cancer, we need to do better.
“The key to doing better in terms of brain cancer outcomes, is for us to be doing research on patient tumour samples. Particularly by trying to study the very specific genetic changes that occur within brain cancers,” said Professor Shackleton.
“We know that at a detailed molecular level what sort of changes occur in brain cancers that make the disease grow and spread. One of the great challenges for researchers is to identify what those molecular changes are - and to identify specific drugs that are able to target them and improve patient outcomes.”