Colorectal Cancer News In Brief: December 4

Briefly:

A video can help patients make personal decisions about end-of-life care.  Cancer death rates are falling in Europe, partly led by recent colorectal cancer declines.

Avastin will now be covered for a longer time for people with advanced colorectal cancer in Ontario.  The Wellness Community in Valley/Ventura, California has a free workshop scheduled for December 19th featuring Dr. Heinz-Josef Lenz.

Research Updates

  • After listening to a verbal narrative about choices for end-of-life care, half of a group of patients with advanced cancer were also shown a video depicting three levels of medical care: life-prolonging care (cardiopulmonary resuscitation, ventilation, ICU), basic care (hospitalization,no CPR), and comfort care (symptom relief).  After seeing the video, patients were much more likely than the control group who only heard the verbal description to want comfort care.  Nine out of ten viewers preferred comfort care compared to only one out of five who didn’t see the video.  None of those seeing the video wanted life-prolonging care, while about one in four who only heard the narrative did.  Over 95 percent were comfortable watching the video and found it helpful. Areej El-Jawahri and team describe their work in a Journal of Clinical Oncology Early Release, November 30, 2009.
  • Cancer deaths rates are falling in Europe, led by declines in tobacco-related cancers and recent decreases in breast and colorectal cancer.  Comparing overall death rates from cancer in the four years from 2000 to 2004 to the years 1990-1994, there was a 9 percent decrease in male rates and an 8 percent decrease for women.   Falling rates were particularly high in middle-aged people, with a 25 percent decrease for both men and women from 35 to 44.   The authors conclude that continuing to reduce tobacco use is a key priority for the future, along with limiting alcohol use, better diet, increases in screening and early detection, and better treatments for cancers that could be cured.  The full, detailed article is available online in the Annals of Oncology Advance Access, November 30, 2009.

Other Headlines

  • Ontario has expanded access to Avastin® (bevacizumab) for colorectal cancer patients.  The province will now pay for it for 24 treatment cycles if patients don’t get worse, and doctors will be able to request additional treatments beyond that.  The new policy, approved on November 29 by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care replaces a previous limit of 16 treatments.  Avastin is now available for colorectal cancer in all Canadian provinces except for Prince Edward Island. CBC News has an announcement of the change. The Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada applauded the government decision. Executive Director Barry Stein said, “Ontario patients who have been benefiting from the drug will now be assured of receiving Avastin until progression of their disease. That is a big burden lifted off the shoulders of patients who benefit from the drug and who were concerned they would not be able to continue treatment.”
  • The Wellness Community Valley/Ventura will host a free workshop, Frankly Speaking About Colorectal Cancer,from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday., December. 19 at the Jennifer Diamond Cancer Foundation, 9410 Owensmouth Avenue in Chatsworth. Heinz-Josef Lenz, MD, will explore treatment, side-effect management and psychosocial aspects of the illness. To register call (805) 379-4777.  Dr. Lenz is Director of the Colorectal Center and the GI Oncology Program at USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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