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Modern targeted drug plus old malaria pill serve a 1-2 punch in advanced cancer patients
Date:4/5/2011

ORLANDO -- Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine may have found a way to turn an adaptive cellular response into a liability for cancer cells. When normal cells are starved for food, they chew up existing proteins and membranes to stay alive. Cancer cells have corrupted that process, called autophagy, using it to survive when they run out of nutrients and to evade death after damage from chemotherapy and other sources. When the Penn investigators treated a group of patients with several different types of advanced cancers with temsirolimus, a molecularly targeted cancer drug that blocks nutrient uptake, plus hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug that inhibits autophagy, they saw that tumors stopped growing in two-thirds of the patients.

Amaravadi's team will present the data at the American Association for Cancer Research 102nd Annual Meeting 2011 in Orlando on Tuesday, April 5. (Abstract #4500)

"The results are very encouraging -- striking, even" says senior author Ravi Amaravadi, MD, an assistant professor of Medicine at Penn's Abramson Cancer Center. "Temsirolimus by itself has little effect in this patient population. Tumors laugh at it, with response percentages of just zero to 5 percent. But by combining it with hydroxychloroquine, we found that 14 out of 21 patients had stable disease after treatment, including five out of six melanoma patients."

In addition to melanoma, patients involved in the study also had colorectal, head and neck, breast, gastro-esophageal, prostate, pancreatic, lung and adrenal cancers. Not only did patients show substantial rates of disease stabilization with the treatment combination, but the researchers report that side effects observed were relatively limited; most commonly mouth sores, weight loss, nausea, and fatigue. Two patients developed infections when the large tumors they had at the start of the trial caved in on themselves as treatment killed off the inte
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Contact: Holly Auer
holly.auer@uphs.upenn.edu
215-200-2313
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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