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New strategy likely to speed drug development for rare cancers
Date:9/15/2011

Researchers have identified promising new therapies for ependymoma, a rare tumor with few treatment options. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital investigators led the effort, which used a new, faster drug development system that combines the latest drug screening technology with the first accurate animal model of the tumor.

Investigators identified several dozen new and existing drugs as possible ependymoma treatment candidates. The drugs were found by screening 5,303 existing medicines, natural products and other compounds for activity against the tumor, which develops in the brain and spine of children and adults. The work is published in the current edition of the scientific journal Cancer Cell.

The list of candidate drugs included 5-fluorouracil (5-FU). 5-FU has been widely used to treat a variety of adult cancers but has not been formally tested against ependymoma. Based on study results, St. Jude is planning a clinical trial of 5-FU in young ependymoma patients, said senior author Richard Gilbertson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the St. Jude Comprehensive Cancer Center. Gilbertson credited the method used in this study with highlighting 5-FU's potential.

Researchers hope to use the same system to expand chemotherapy options for patients with other cancers. "This approach should significantly advance the efficiency and speed with which we discover and develop new treatments for rare cancers and cancer subtypes," the investigators noted. Jennifer Atkinson, Ph.D., a former St. Jude postdoctoral fellow, is the first author. R. Kiplin Guy, Ph.D., chair of the St. Jude Department of Chemical Biology and Therapeutics, and Gilbertson are corresponding authors.

Rather than waiting years for clinical trial results, this system promises to take just months to provide key information about a drug's effectiveness and optimal administration, Gilbertson said.

The results are good news for patients with ependymoma and ot
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Contact: Summer Freeman
summer.freeman@stjude.org
901-595-3061
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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