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Colorectal cancer drug Zaltrap may slightly extend survival

In treating cancer, every bit of knowledge could help. Now researchers have found that adding the experimental drug Zaltrap in a chemotherapy regimen may slightly prolong survival in patients with advanced colorectal cancer and slow the progression of the disease, companies Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals announced Monday.

The companies said data from a clinical trial, in which 1,226 patients on chemotherapy received Zaltrap (generic name: aflibercept) or a placebo, will be presented at a conference this month.

The add-on therapy doesn’t appear to dramatically change the outcome of the aggressive cancer. The median survival period among patients who took Zaltrap was 13.5 months, compared with 12.1 months among those who took the placebo, according to the study’s abstract in a supplement to the Annals of Oncology (subscription required). And adverse events — including diarrhea, fatigue, ulcers and high blood pressure — were slightly more common among the Zaltrap patients.

All the patients in the trial had metastatic colorectal cancer, meaning the disease had spread beyond the original site.

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The prognosis is grim for metastatic cancer in the colon or rectum, according to UpToDate:

“Cure is not possible for most patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, although some patients who have limited involvement (particularly restricted to the liver or lung) can be cured with surgery. For others, chemotherapy is the most appropriate option. Chemotherapy does not cure metastatic colorectal cancer, but it can improve symptoms and prolong life.” 

RELATED: A different kind of lab test to identify colorectal cancer.

healthkey@tribune.com

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