Barcelona, Spain: An experimental drug that attacks cancer in an entirely new way has shown promise in treating advanced melanoma, delaying progression of the disease and prolonging the lives of patients.
New research presented today (Wednesday) at the European Cancer Conference (ECCO 14) in Barcelona found that giving the new drug in addition to chemotherapy more than doubled the amount of time patients survived without progression of their cancer.
The study, according to Dr Anthony Williams, vice president of clinical research at Synta Pharmaceuticals Corp. in Lexington, Massachusetts, USA, included 81 patients with metastatic melanoma. Of those, 28 received treatment with the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel alone and 53 received paclitaxel plus the new drug, STA-4783.
The median progression free survival was 1.8 months in the group who got chemotherapy alone, but 3.7 months in the group who got the combination, Williams said. This doubling in progression free survival is impressive for this cancer, and the result was achieved without substantial additional toxicity.
He added: Progression-free survival was linked to improvements in overall survival. Patients on the experimental combination survived on average for 12 months after being diagnosed, while those getting only paclitaxel survived on average 7.8 months. This is the first time an improvement in survival has been seen in a randomised, double-blind, multi-centre controlled trial for metastatic melanoma.
The drug is the first in a new class called oxidative stress inducers. It works by increasing the amount of reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as hydrogen peroxide and superoxide, in cells. When the level exceeds the antioxidant capacity of cells, the cells are in a state of oxidative stress. All cells have some low level of ROS, but cancer cells naturally operate with a higher level of ROS and oxidative stress relative to normal cells. However, too much oxida
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ECCO-the European CanCer Conference