"My first cancer doctor gave me five years to live," said that patient, Albina Duggan of Bourbonnais, IL. "That time runs out next July."
Duggan, mother of four, has a rare cancer, an epitheliod hemangioendothelioma that originated in the liver and subsequently spread to two vertebrae in the neck and to the lymph nodes. She had surgery and radiation therapy and was evaluated for a liver transplant, but evidence of cancer beyond the liver made her ineligible for a transplant. She "shopped around" for other therapies and was able to keep the disease in check for a year with sorafenib, a drug approved for kidney and liver cancers.
After a year of stable disease, however, her tumor began growing again and she had to look for an alternative therapy. Her doctors at the University of Chicago offered three clinical trials. The most appealing to her was the rapamycin plus grapefruit juice study. She took her first dose March 11, 2008, and is still on the drug-juice combination.
"My tumor is smaller and it's no longer growing. I feel fine. I can do whatever I like and I have no real side effects," she said. "What's not to like?"
Trial subjects do not like the taste of rapamycin. "It's not pleasant," Duggan admitted. She has also tired of grapefruit juice.
Many patients in the study did report side effects. More than half experienced elevated blood sugar levels, diarrhea, low white blood cell counts or fatigue.
Duggan, more fortunate than most, has had milder side effects, including fragile toe and finger nails and curly hair. "I now have very curly hair," she said, "seriously curly. I have to adjust to it."
Rapamycin, also known as sirolimus, was originally developed to suppress the immune system, preventing rejection in patien
|Contact: John Easton|
University of Chicago Medical Center