London researchers are involved in a study showing a two-pronged treatment for a rare form of brain cancer has promise.

Dr. Barbara Fisher is part of a Canadian-U.S. study looking into treatment for low-grade gliomas.

"We were quite surprised because the patients seemed to be doing much better than we expected in comparison to other patients in the past who have had radiation alone,” she says.

The study found a chemotherapy-radiation combination led to a 73 per cent survival rate, compared to 54 per cent among patients treated with radiation alone.

Low-grade gliomas are a relatively rare form of brain cancer. Although survival rates vary depending on genetics and the structure of the tumour, one form of the cancer has an average survival rate of about five years.

Improved treatment could mean stopping the progression of the cancer.

“They're basically, in general, slow growing, primary brain tumours that originate in the brain tissue. It can occur at any age, but it tends to be younger patients,” Fisher says.

This study adds to growing evidence pointing to the benefits of the chemo-radiation combo for low-grade brain tumours.

"So now the standard across North America and Europe, which was probably the most skeptical places, is now chemotherapy and radiation together,” she says.

London was one of a number of sites for the clinical trials. And while the study focuses on one particular type of brain tumour, the findings have implications for other brain cancers.

“It's really changed our management of low-grade gliomas. It's also leading to other studies in the future which are trying to identify which groups of patients benefit the most from this combination of chemotherapy and radiation."