A group of researchers in Australia have found that radiotherapy was a better option for cancer patients than medicines and if provided in the right doses could go a long way in saving their lives.

Researchers from the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne have suggested that radiotherapy, given in appropriate doses, can go long way saving the lives of cancer patients than if they were given additional doses of strong drugs.

Therapy using radiation doses is more successful when administered according to protocol, researchers said in the new findings that form part of a new set of data generated from a large international trial designed to investigate a new drug.

The investigative drug was being tested to find out if it would improve survival of patients with advanced head and neck cancer when added to radiotherapy. The results of the study indicated that right dose of radiotherapy was much more significant.

The difference in survival between patients who got acceptable or unacceptable radiotherapy was 20 per cent over two years. It shot up to 70 per cent survival rates among those who got good radiotherapy and was only 50 per cent in those who got unsatisfactory radiotherapy.

Chances of getting sub-standard radiotherapy for head and neck cancer patients were higher when they approached smaller centers that could treat only a few patients with the disease. Receiving additional drug treatments was found to be not the best approach always, says lead researcher Professor Lester Peters.

"The history of cancer research is that as you add each new drug or biological you gain an incremental improvement usually of a few per cent," Prof. Peters was quoted as saying in ABC Radio's AM report.

"What we've shown for the first time, and very dramatically, is that unless the platform treatment and the new incremental improvements is done in a competent way it's all a waste of time. It’s no good having the fancy icing on the cake if the cake is not baked properly," he says.

The logical extrapolation of the study results in the context of Australia is that as more and more regional cancer centres are opened up there are certain types of complex cancers that are probably still best treated in major centres.

The difficulty is to reconcile the convenience of treatment in the regions with the impossibility with maintain sub-specialty expertise in every small facility.

The benefits to just right doses of radiation therapy have never been documented quantitatively before. And what the researchers found about the magnitude of the effect is astounding, Professor Peters stated, after publishing the study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.