High dose chemotherapy for breast cancer a controversial treatment unsuccessfully tried by Linda McCartney, the wife of ex Beatle Paul is dangerous and of little benefit, four trials have concluded.
One study reports that the treatment was responsible for nearly 8 per cent of deaths.
Many frightened patients have decided to gamble on high dose chemotherapy in the US, where it has been made readily available following encouraging results from early trials.
Oncologists in Europe have not been keen to introduce it as routine practice.
The latest findings, released prematurely by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, could put the brakes on the practice in the US. In all, five trials into high dose chemotherapy have been carried out, and only one found it to be beneficial.
But despite the new warnings, several American cancer groups are demanding that the treatment be allowed to continue, so desperate are they for any therapy that can offer hope (Lancet, 1999; 353: 1633).