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Will extending treatment with more chemotherapy drugs eliminate my cancer?

Oct 11, 2019


Aggressive chemotherapy treatment with more chemo drug combinations are now commonly used based on the strategy of a multi-prong attack on the cancer to keep it in control and try to eliminate it completely. A clinical trial has shown that radiotherapy with a combination of chemo drug Cisplatin and Cetuximab vs. Radiotherapy with only Cisplatin chemotherapy treatment did not increase patient survival and on the contrary, the aggressive treatment increased the level of toxicity (chemo side-effect) in the group with more drugs.

As a species, we humans want the best of all options and maximize the benefits of all choices with the simplistic notion that more is always better. This seems to be the case with cancer treatment as well. In theory, one would assume that if they stacked multiple cancer therapies with each other, then it would increase their chance of survival because each concurrent or subsequent therapy would help completely eradicate any cancer cells that the first therapy missed. While this does theoretically make sense and is true to some extent, it may not be always beneficial as it eventually reaches a benefit ceiling.

Aggressive Chemo Treatment (stacking multiple therapies) may worsen chemotherapy side-effect of toxicity.

Aggressive Chemo Treatment may not be beneficial for Cancer

In many clinical trials it has been shown that stacking multiple forms of toxic cancer therapies does not necessarily improve the efficacy of the treatment while it has a significant impact on quality of life. In a phase III randomized Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) 0522 trial done on patients with either stage 3 or 4 head and neck cancer, patients received radiation therapy and a chemo drug called Cisplatin either with or without another chemo drug called Cetuximab. The idea before conducting the study was that radiation therapy, which uses highly energized x-rays to kill cancer cells, can be combined with drugs such as Cisplatin and Cetuximab to essentially make the cells more sensitive to the radiation and be able to shrink and eliminate the tumor permanently. The results of the study, however, showed that radiation therapy along with a combination of Cisplatin and Cetuximab had no increase in patient survival compared to patients who paired their radiation therapy with Cisplatin alone (NCT00265941). In fact, the biggest difference in the results between the patients in both treatment groups was the increased level of toxicity in patients who received radiation therapy along with the combination of the two chemo drugs (Harari PM et al, J Clin Oncol. 2019).

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In the case of prostate cancer, the use of radiation therapy post surgery as an adjuvant treatment vs. using it only in the event of recurrence as a salvage treatment as indicated through multiple phase III randomized clinical trials, have questioned the beneficial effects of the more aggressive approach of extending the treatment in prolonging overall survival over impact on quality of life due to significant side-effects (Herrera and Berthold, Front Oncol. 2016).

Therefore, this is a commonly faced clinical and personal dilemma of the benefits and trade-offs of aggressive cancer treatment of prolonging life vs. impact on quality of life. Cancer treatment with chemotherapies and radiation therapy is a necessary evil that one will have to confront but more is not always better and having a good quality of life is equally important over prolonging life. The odds of cancer therapy could be improved through scientifically complementing the chemo with the right natural supplements, that do not add to the toxicity and side-effect to improve patient well being.

Cancer patients often have to deal with different chemotherapy side effects which affect their quality of life and look out for alternative therapies for cancer. Taking the right nutrition and supplements based on scientific considerations (avoiding guesswork and random selection) is the best natural remedy for cancer and treatment related side-effects.