Posts Tagged ‘American Society of Clinical Oncology’

Why haven’t we won the war?

18 Jun 2008 by under Events, News, Research/Treatment

Earlier this month, about 33,000 medical professionals gathered for the annual meeting of the . The event is the world’s largest gathering of cancer specialists, and includes among its programs updates about various cancer treatments, as well as an opportunity for physicians to visit vendors from drug companies to learn about new products.

A special focus of this year’s conference was lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs, and may also affect the abdomen or the pericardium (the sac around the heart).

There was a great deal of hope for a new drug, Erbitux, which doctors hoped would prove to have significant results in prolonging survival for lung cancer patients (it didn’t), as well as review of a currently popular lung cancer drug, Avastin, which in its Phase III trial was shown to help keep the disease from progressing.

But among the reports of facts and figures and products and treatments, was a report by Robert Bazell at MSNBC.com. Why, he wondered, are we not further along in the War on Cancer, which was declared as a national health priority in 1971, when President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act.

The Act, Bazell points out, created the National Cancer Institute as a separate entity from the National Institutes of Health, with a dedicated budget for curing cancer. The NCI started with $230 million per year, and now has a budget of $5 billion.

Certainly, progress has been made, and there have been steady declines in breast, colon and prostate cancers, most due to better methods for early detection, Bazell points out. But, overall, he says, the death toll from cancer has declined only 5 percent between 1950 and 2005. FIVE percent!

What are the challenges? Why are we not winning this war?

Certainly, the nature of cancer itself has something to do with it – there are more than 200 diseases that fit into the definition of “cancer,” uncontrolled cell growth, he points out. And, even though funding has increased, if you adjust that $5 billion budget for inflation, spending on cancer research has actually been falling in recent years, he says.

But I was intrigued by his most compelling argument, which seems so simple. He notes that “it would be very useful to have a discussion on how much we spend on BASIC RESEARCH and PREVENTION, compared to how much we spend on marginally useful treatments.”

Is it possible that we can no longer see the forest for the trees?


Arenegyr granted orphan drug status

9 Jun 2008 by under News, Research/Treatment

molmed logo2 Arenegyr granted orphan drug statusFriday it was announced the European Commission has granted orphan drug status for Arenegyr, an anti-tumor therapeutic drug manufactured by MolMed S.p.A. in the treatment of malignant pleural (MPM).

According to PharmaLive, Arenegyr is a vascular targeting agent with a unique mode of action, and a first-in-class compound in the class of peptide/cytokine complexes able to selectively target the tumor vasculature. Unique biological properties include induction of tumor vascular permeability and normalization, and a direct biological anti-tumor activity.

PharmaLive quotes MolMed’s president and CEO, Claudio Bordignon, as saying, “Orphan drug designation for Arenegyr in mesothelioma represents a fundamental acknowledgement of the interesting early efficacy and safety results achieved in an ongoing Phase II trial, with 53 patients recruited so far, and which we just presented at the ASCO () Annual meeting 2008.

He went on to say, “The analysis of preliminary study results presented at ASCO, conducted on 41 patients, already gave evidence of substantial clinical benefits in terms of long-lasting disease control and promising survivals in chemo-pretreated mesothelioma patients. In particular, it shows improved overall survival, and nearly doubled progression-free survival with respect to best supportive care data reported in literature.”

Bordignon said consolidated results relating to survival data will be available in December.


Mesothelioma and chemotherapy research

19 May 2008 by under News, Research/Treatment

This week BBC News / Health reported on a recent study published by The Lancet, which features independent and authoritative commentary on global medicine, including research and analysis from all regions of the world. The study suggests that chemotherapy is not effective in dealing with mesothelioma, which is an asbestos-induced cancer that effects the lungs and, more rarely, the abdomen.

The results are based on a study of 409 patients, mostly from the United Kingdom, which set out to assess the potential benefits of combining active symptom control, which usually involves steroid drugs and radiotherapy, with chemotherapy. Results showed no real benefit from adding the chemotherapy drugs compared with just treating the symptoms of the disease.

The BBC quotes one of the authors of the study, Dr Richard Stephens from the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit, as saying, “While thousands are and will be affected by this deadly disease, our trial, which is one of the few large trials ever conducted in this disease, emphasizes how difficult mesothelioma is to treat. This is mainly because mesothelioma forms in the lining of the lung. This makes it hard to target.”

One chemotherapy drug, vinorelbine, was shown by the study to have some promise, but researchers do not think blanket chemotherapy treatment is a promising direction for treatment of mesothelioma, according to the Lancet report.

Researchers do not necessarily consider these findings to be bad news, as a study that defines what does not help can be beneficial to patient health because it helps reduce the chance that patients will undergo stressful treatments that are ineffective.

Results of a completely different chemotherapy study conducted by researchers at Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center were released May 18, revealing that chemotherapy given in conjunction with cancer vaccines may actually boost the immune system’s response to the vaccines, according to a report by ScienceDaily.

The Duke study focused on a drug used to treat lymphoma, but could have implications for clinical trials with vaccines being used to treat many cancers including lung cancer, brain tumors and colorectal cancer.

According to the FDA, it is the goal of cancer vaccine clinical trials not to prevent cancer, but to treat existing tumors. The idea is to train the person’s immune system to recognize the living cancer cells and attack them.

In July 2007, the American Association for Cancer Research examined the issue of cancer vaccines and, according to a report by Medical News Today, they found that “ongoing therapeutic cancer vaccine trials have yet to show evidence of vaccines spurring a patient’s immune system to shrink tumors – yet patients who receive these vaccines in trials tend to live longer and respond better to subsequent treatment.”

The full study, titled Cancer Vaccines: Moving Beyond Current Paradigms is available to read online at Clinical Cancer Research.

Full results of the Duke study will be presented May 31 at the meeting in Chicago, Ill.