A new study by Public Health England and Cancer Research UK has found up to 50 percent of certain types of cancer patients may be dying from chemotherapy drugs.
Researchers for the study, which was published in The Lancet Oncology medical journal, focused on patients in the U.K. who had died within 30 days of beginning chemotherapy treatment. Chemotherapy kills both healthy and cancerous cells.
The study showed that close to 8.4 percent of lung cancer patients and 2.4 percent of those with breast cancer did not make it more than a month, according to The Telegraph.
The researchers found the death rate among lung cancer patients being treated at England's Milton Keynes Hospital was 50.9 percent, but that sample size was small.
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Lancashire Teaching Hospitals reportedly saw a death rate of 28 percent for lung cancer patients undergoing palliative chemotherapy, which is when symptoms are treated but a cure is not anticipated.
About 20 percent of breast cancer patients who received palliative care died during treatments at Cambridge University Hospitals, according to the study.
Dr. Jem Rashbass, head of cancer treatments for PHE, said:
Chemotherapy is a vital part of cancer treatment and is a large reason behind the improved survival rates over last four decades. However, it is powerful medication with significant side effects and often getting the balance right on which patients to treat aggressively can be hard. Those hospitals whose death rates are outside the expected range have had the findings shared with them and we have asked them to review their practice and data.
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All the hospitals in the study said they reviewed their cases, and concluded that their prescribing of chemotherapy was safe.
While chemotherapy has been used to treat cancer for decades, scientists are still looking for safer and more effective treatments or a possible cure for cancer.
A study by Duke University Medical Center released in May 2016 found that an antibody, developed from the human body's immune system, appeared to specifically target cancer cells, noted ScienceDaily.
The study, which was conducted on cell lines and animal models, found that the antibody took apart a specific area of the cancer cell's defense so the cell could be attacked in various ways.
Dr. Edward F. Patz, Jr., the study's lead author, said: "This is the first completely human-derived antibody developed as an anti-cancer therapy, which is very different from other immunotherapy approaches."