Last year in the UK over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials aimed at improving cancer treatments and making them available to all.
A trial looking at chemotherapy and radiotherapy for anal cancer (EXTRA)
Doctors often treat cancer of the anus (anal cancer) with radiotherapy and chemotherapy at the same time. This is called chemoradiation. They commonly use the chemotherapy drugs 5-fluorouracil (5FU) and mitomycin C.
Capecitabine is another chemotherapy drug. One main benefits is that it is a capsule rather than an injection. It is converted into 5FU in the body, but works in a slightly different way. Because of this, doctors hoped it would work as well as 5FU, but would cause fewer side effects because it has less effect on normal cells.
In this trial patients had capecitabine and mitomycin C with radiotherapy. The aim of the trial was to find out how well this combination worked for anal cancer.
Summary of results
The research team found that capecitabine and mitomycin C with radiotherapy was a useful treatment for anal cancer.
The trial recruited 31 people with anal cancer. Most of the people taking part had stage 2 or 3 cancer. They all had capecitabine, mitomycin C and radiotherapy.
The research team looked at the results of 30 people, 4 weeks after finishing treatment and found that the cancer had
- Gone away completely in 24 people
- Got smaller in 5 people
- Stayed the same in 1 person
And 6 months after treatment the cancer had
- Gone away completely in 28 people
- Got smaller in 1 person
- Continued to grow in 1 person
The most common side effects included sore skin, a drop in blood cells, diarrhoea, constipation, feeling sick and tiredness.
The research team concluded that capecitabine and mitomycin C is a safe alternative to 5FU and mitomycin C and worked well for anal cancer. Another benefit is that patients can have their treatment as an outpatient rather than having to stay in hospital for chemotherapy.
The research team recommends that a larger phase 3 trial of this treatment is done.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.
Dr Rob Glynne-Jones
Colorectal Clinical Oncology Group (CCOG)
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network (NCRN)