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Drug Improves Survival in Mice With Brain Tumors

Cediranib reduces tissue swelling better than steroids, team says

THURSDAY, April 2 (HealthDay News) -- Anti-angiogenesis drugs reduce edema (swelling of brain tissue) caused by deadly brain tumors called glioblastomas, a new study suggests.

Anti-angiogenesis drugs prevent the formation of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow, the researchers pointed out.

In this study, a Massachusetts General Hospital team found that the experimental anti-angiogenesis drug cediranib reduced edema and improved survival in mice with glioblastomas. The drug inhibits an angiogenesis factor called VEGF, which is abundant in glioblastomas.

"Our findings suggest that anti-angiogenesis therapy can increase patient survival even in the face of persistent tumor growth," study co-senior author Rakesh K. Jain, director of the Steele Laboratory in MGH's radiation oncology department, said in a hospital news release. "In glioblastoma clinical trials, it is important to separate survival analysis from that of tumor response to therapy, since many factors combine to cause patient deaths."

Previous research showed that cediranib temporarily normalized abnormal, leaky blood vessels that had recurred after surgery, radiation or chemotherapy for glioblastoma, reducing edema and the size of tumors. But exactly how the drug did this was unclear. This study clarified that cediranib's beneficial effects resulted from reduction of edema, the study authors said.

"This is the first paper to show that vascular normalization alone, without chemotherapy, can be effective against some tumors by controlling edema, and that this anti-edema effect is better than that of currently used steroids," Jain said.

"Unfortunately, these anti-VEGF agents did not slow the tumor growth rate in these [mouse] models; and since recurrent glioblastomas are highly resistant to currently used chemotherapy drugs, even if vascular normalization increased drug delivery, there may be little or no additional increase in patient survival. We urgently need to find better anti-tumor and anti-angiogenic agents."

The study, which was published online and is expected to be in a future print issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, received funding from AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures cediranib under the brand name Recentin.

More information

The American Brain Tumor Association has more about brain tumors.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Massachusetts General Hospital, news release, March 30, 2009

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