Combined drug treatment for ovarian cancer is not more effective than single drug treatment, a new study reveals.

The ICON2 trial, an international, multicentre, randomised study which compared the combination treatment CAP (cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin and cisplatin) with the single agent carboplatin in 1,526 women with ovarian cancer, found an equivalent number of deaths in both groups (368 out of 766 in the CAP group and 360 out of 760 in the carboplatin group).

Survival did not vary between the groups, either; median survival was 33 months from diagnosis with two year survival rate of 60 per cent for both groups.

CAP was found to be substantially more toxic than carboplatin, causing more hair loss, lowering of white blood cell count, vomiting and nausea. Nevertheless, more thrombocytopenia occurred with the carboplatin used alone.

Although combination therapy was hailed as a significant advance on its introduction, the results of this trial throw into doubt current trends in the treatment of a disease which accounts for around 5 per cent of cancer deaths among women (Lancet, 1998; 352: 1571-6).

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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