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SCOT update

Patients who are diagnosed with early bowel cancer may be advised to have chemotherapy treatment for 24 weeks after surgery. This treatment increases their chances of surviving the cancer.  Unfortunately, all chemotherapy treatments have side effects and these side effects often get worse as the treatment goes on.  Previous studies have demonstrated that a shorter course of chemotherapy may be less toxic without being less effective.

The aim of the SCOT trial is to definitively answer the question of whether 12 weeks of chemotherapy is as effective in reducing cancer recurrence as the current standard practice of 24 weeks of the same chemotherapy drugs. It is hoped that the 12 week chemotherapy treatment will not only show less side effects than the 24 week treatment, and would be much more convenient, but also would be no less effective . New Zealand patients joined others from around the world, and were randomly assigned to have their treatment for 12 or 24 weeks.

The early results have been released and show that side effects, such as nerve damage, were less for those patients receiving 12 weeks of chemotherapy compared to those receiving 24 weeks. However, the patients need much longer follow-up to establish whether recurrence rates and survival are the same for 12 compared with 24 weeks of treatment, and also to check for persisting long term nerve side effects.