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Avoiding a failure to diagnose the need for chemotherapy

One of the difficulties doctors have experienced when treating patients diagnosed with colon cancer has been in knowing when to use chemotherapy following surgical removal of tumors. According to a recent study, Oklahoma oncologists might avoid a misdiagnosis by using a currently-available laboratory test to identify patients who could benefit from chemotherapy.

Up to now, the generally accepted course of treatment for patients with early stage colon cancer was to avoid unnecessarily exposing them to the risks associated with chemotherapy if cancerous tumors were surgically removed. Survival rates up to 87 percent five years after surgery tended to support the validity of this course of treatment. Identifying patients who are likely to have tumors redevelop after surgery and treating them with chemotherapy might help to improve survival rates.

A study of 1,900 patients diagnosed with stage 2 and stage 3 colon cancer shows that survival rates improve if doctors use a test to identify which patients could benefit from chemotherapy following surgery. Researchers found that tumor cells that did not show the presence of a CDX2 protein were likely to produce tumors later on unless chemotherapy was used following surgery.

Although some medical experts have reservations about relying upon the conclusions reached by the study’s authors because the data did not include tests performed on new patients, it is anticipated that doctors will begin testing stage 2 patients now that the study has been published. Doctors who do not make use of the test might be risking a medical negligence claim from a patient who was not tested and whose colon cancer returns.