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Breakthrough treatment improves cancer survival rate

MANILA, Philippines — With the introduction of a breakthrough treatment, there is now an improved overall survival rate for those suffering from biliary tract cancer (BTC), according to cancer experts.

Dr. Herdee Luna, president of the Philippine Society of Oncologists, said results of the TOPAZ-1 Phase III trial have shown that the use of immunotherapy Durvalumab, combined with chemotherapy, can prolong the life of patients with advanced BTC.

Biliary tract cancer is a major sub-type of liver cancer, which is the fourth most common cancer type in the Philippines and the third leading cause of cancer death in country.

“The improvement rate (survival rate) is twice. It is very meaningful. It’s the average, median so it could be a little bit more or a little bit less, it depends on the patient,” Luna said in an interview following a forum at the Edsa Shangri-La in Mandaluyong on Thursday.

“In general, the data says twice better overall survival, better response… It is like a year or a little bit over a year,” she stressed. Luna added there are patients already trying this kind of treatment.

“Though, it (treatment) is not yet in government hospitals because it is not yet part of the Philippine National Formulary… I guess in private hospitals, they could get access to it by getting in touch with distributors,” the oncologist explained.

“After minimal progress for more than a decade in advanced biliary tract cancer, the TOPAZ-1 results are a tremendous advance for our patients, showing a clear survival benefit for Durvalumab added to chemotherapy, compared to standard of care with a remarkable safety profile,” said Dr. Do-Youn Oh of the division of medical oncology, department of internal medicine at Seoul National University Hospital and Seoul National University College of Medicine, and principal investigator in the TOPAZ-1 Phase III trial.

“This combination will provide a desperately needed and potentially practice-changing new treatment option in a setting where the current prognosis is devastating,” Oh added. — Helen Flores