Researchers found that the targeted therapy regorafenib lengthens the lives of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (colorectal cancer that has spread outside the colon and rectum) and slows the growth of the cancer. Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets the cancer's specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival.
For this study, 760 people with metastatic colorectal cancer received either regorafenib combined with supportive care or a placebo  (an inactive treatment) plus supportive care. Supportive care is the treatment of side effects and symptoms from cancer and its treatment; it can include antibiotics to treat infections and medications for pain management, as well as other treatments. For patients with metastatic colorectal cancer that has worsened while receiving standard treatments, supportive care and treatment as part of a clinical trial have been the best options available.
When studying regorafenib, researchers found that patients who received the drug lived about a month and a half longer than patients who received a placebo. In addition, patients who took regorafenib were less likely to have the cancer worsen than those who received a placebo. Regorafenib also helped control the cancer better. This means that, although the cancer was not shrinking, it was also not growing (often called stable disease). For patients who took regorafenib, 44% had stable disease compared with 15% of patients who received the placebo. The results of this study are important because the standard treatments had stopped working for the patients in this study. In addition, it shows that shrinking the tumor may not be needed to help lengthen patient's lives.
What this means for patients
“When standard therapies for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer stop working, and the cancer continues to worsen, most patients only live a few months,” said lead author Axel Grothey, MD, Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “So it's exciting that this drug has significantly increased survival, in some cases adding many more months of life, in these patients. In the future, we'd like to find ways to better identify which patients will likely benefit from treatment with regorafenib.”
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- What stage of colorectal cancer do I have? What does this mean?
- What is my prognosis (chance of recovery)?
- What treatments have I already received?
- What are my additional treatment options?
- Is targeted therapy an option?
- What clinical trials are open to me?
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