Australian Study Shows Chemotherapy Adds 2% to Survival Statistics

The Health Report: 18 April 2005 – Chemotherapy

Norman Swan: Good morning Fran and welcome to the program. This morning on the Health Report globalisation writ small. Why go down the road for your surgery when you can avoid the waiting lists, get it cut price in another country and have a holiday with the money you’ve saved? A personal story involving new knees coming up.

And, has cancer chemotherapy, the use of drugs to treat malignancies been oversold? That’s the clear implication of a paper published by some Australian cancer specialists, two of whom, perhaps non-coincidentally are radiation oncologists/radiotherapists.

Anyway in this summary of evidence, the assertion is that chemo has only added about 2% to cancer survival. The lead author is Association Professor Graeme Morgan who’s at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. Is this, I wondered, an in house battle, the revenge of the radiotherapists?

Graeme Morgan: Well one could cynically say that but the reason I did it was that we were sick and tired of hearing about these new drugs and it wasn’t really cementing into anything. And the reason for my doing the paper was to really show that there hasn’t been any improvement in survival, or the improvement has been very, very modest despite all these new drugs and new combinations and bone marrow transplants.

Norman Swan: So what did you do in this study?

Graeme Morgan: Well what I did was that I took the major cancers and got their incidence from the Australian data sets and also got the breakdown of those cancers into their stages and also then compared that with the data from America.

Norman Swan: So you knew how many people were coming down with cancer per 100,000 of the population or whatever?

Graeme Morgan: Yes, we knew the exact number who were diagnosed in I think the years were 1998 and we then broke it down into the various stages and we looked at those stages what impact chemotherapy would have on a particular stage and a particular cancer.

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