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A crystal ball for brain cancer?
Date:8/16/2009

UCLA researchers have uncovered a new way to scan brain tumors and predict which ones will be shrunk by the drug Avastin -- before the patient ever starts treatment. By linking high water movement in tumors to positive drug response, the UCLA team predicted with 70 percent accuracy which patients' tumors were the least likely to grow six months after therapy.

Bronnie McNabb, 57, considers himself lucky. When his aggressive brain cancer returned after chemotherapy and radiation, his UCLA doctor prescribed the off-label use of Avastin, a drug shown to quell cancers in the breast, colon and lung.

One month later, McNabb's tumors had shrunk by 95 percent. Subsequent brain scans show no trace of his cancer at all. The former marathon runner, ordained minister and father of two says he hasn't felt this good since his diagnosis last winter.

In welcome news for patients like McNabb, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Avastin last month for the treatment of brain cancer. The powerful drug shrinks tumors by choking off their blood supply. Half of patients don't respond to the therapy, though, exposing them to unnecessary side effects and medication costing up to $10,000 per month.

Now UCLA scientists have uncovered a new way to image tumors and forecast which patients, like McNabb, are most likely to benefit from Avastin before starting a single dose of treatment. The findings are published in this month's issue of the journal Radiology.

"Avastin is an expensive drug, yet only 50 percent of patients with recurring brain cancers respond to it," said lead author Dr. Whitney Pope, assistant professor of radiological sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Until now, there has been no good way to identify these patients in advance. Our work is the first to suggest that we can predict which tumors will respond before the patient ever starts therapy."

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Contact: Elaine Schmidt
eschmidt@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2272
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert  

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