Mamamaratona 4 – Run for life 2004

New treatment for colon cancer

Oral chemotherapy breakthrough

In Portugal, nine people die of cancer of the colon every day, making it the second most fatal form of cancer. And, every year, people are confronted by a diagnosis that marks the beginning of a long and traumatic time. For these people, forced to face up to surgery for the removal of a cancerous tumour and the constant fear of recurrence, there is now new hope in the form of a new pill called capacitabina – an oral substitute for traditional chemotherapy.

In the past, treatment involved hospitalisation and intensive chemotherapy treatments, surrounded by doctors and nurses. But now, this pill, taken twice a day, does not require hospital admission. The new pill, according to oncologist Tavares de Castro, is not only more convenient, but also offers patients a 13 per cent greater chance of survival. That may not seem an earth-shattering number, but, if it were applied to the thousands of people operated on in Portugal, it would lead to hundreds of saved lives every year.

First introduced at the beginning of June, at a meeting organised by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the drug was accompanied by the results of a clinical study in which more than 2,000 patients in hospitals, from 30 countries, tested the pill. It tested to see how effective it was in the prevention of metastasis (the spread of cancer through the body). The results were so conclusive that doctors said it should now be considered the chief treatment for patients who have undergone surgery to remove a cancerous tumour from their colon. The oral treatment also has considerable merit when compared to chemotherapy. Reports indicate that 60 per cent of patients have secondary reactions, such as diarrhoea, ulcers, hair loss, nausea, vomiting and a diminution of white blood cells, following normal chemotherapy.

But the new pill has less adverse reactions, according to many patients – in particular, it does not induce hair loss. The new form of oral chemotherapy is already on the market, albeit at a higher price than traditional treatment. But, although more expensive in the short term, doctors believe it will be more cost-effective in the long term. “If we take into consideration the need of a nurse during the five days of the treatment and also the cost of materials necessary, as well as the price of occupying a hospital bed and moving patients around, then the pill is more advantageous,” says Tavares de Castro. Patients living at some distance from a hospital particularly welcome the new pill. “Put simply, it’s the difference between taking pills at home and having to take injections in hospital over a period of months,” adds de Castro.

MM4 news

• Big Fish has just announced that on the day of the Mamamaratona 4 race, local company Shoe World will be at the event with 1,000 pairs of shoes in all sizes, all on sale for just five euros a pair. Half of the proceeds for this will go to Mamamaratona – this means that, potentially, Shoe World could donate 2,500 euros to the worthy cause.

• And just to remind all those clubbers out there – Kadoc nightclub is holding a party on September 17 in aid of Mamamaratona. Entrance fee is 10 euros – this includes a buffet and a free drink. Half the proceeds of the evening will be generously donated to MM4.