Delaying surgery after chemo shrinks tumour


Southampton researchers have shown that bowel cancer patients have better outcomes with a longer gap between chemotherapy and surgery.

The current best treatment for bowel cancer is an initial session of chemotherapy to shrink the tumour, followed by surgery to remove it after a recoivery period.

The gap between these two treatments can vary, and up until now there has been little evidence to recommend how long it should be.

A new study by the critical care group of the NIHR Southampton Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit, published in the European Journal of Surgical Oncology, has demonstrated that bowel cancer patients’ tumours shrunk more when the gap between after chemotherapy and surgery was longer.

Prolonged shrinking

The team used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to assess the size of the tumours nine and 14 weeks after the patients had undergone chemotherapy.

They found the tumours continued to shrink during the extra five weeks, with an average reduction in size of 62% after nine weeks and 86% after 14 weeks.

Improving cancer treatment

This research provides new evidence to support delaying surgery for longer after chemotherapy in bowel cancer patients, enabling surgeons to remove the tumour at the best possible time.

By informing decisions over how long to wait, these results could help to improve best practice in bowel cancer treatment, leading to better outcomes for patients and potentially saving lives.  

Posted on Tuesday 20 September 2016