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Scientists puzzled by severe allergic reaction to cancer drug in the middle Southern US
Date:8/20/2007

CHAPEL HILL A patients expectations about the side effects of chemotherapy usually focus on nausea, hair loss, fatigue and other side effects. Worries about severe allergic reactions to their therapy is usually not a concern.

A recent study from the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Vanderbilt-Ingram Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Sarah Canon Cancer Center in Nashville have identified an unusually high rate of allergic reaction in cancer patients living in the middle South who received a common drug used for treating their cancer.

This study was presented at the 43rd annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago in June, 2007 and appears online Aug. 17th in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The drug, cetuximab, marketed by Bristol-Meyers Squibb as Erbitux, is a widely used chemotherapeutic agent for treating colon cancer, head and neck tumors, and is being studied in the treatment of ovarian, lung, breast and gastrointestinal tumors.

When cetuximab was first approved, the first three patients treated at UNC had severe reactions to the drug. Doctors at both Sarah Canon and Vanderbilt also had more patients than expected react with a drop in blood pressure and shortness of breath or other hypersensitivity reactions within minutes of infusion of cetuximab.

After speaking with others, we realized that patients who lived on a line across North Carolina, Tennessee, northern Arkansas and southern Missouri had these adverse reactions to the drug, said study leader Dr. Bert ONeil, assistant professor of medicine, division of hematology and oncology at UNC. So, we thought it appropriate to see what common bonds were there.

Cancer researchers from UNC and Vanderbilt pooled their patients dating back to when the drug received approval from the Food and Drug Administration, in 2004. More than 140 patients from ongoing clinical
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Contact: Les Lang
llang@med.unc.edu
919-843-9687
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Source:Eurekalert

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