In the new study, the second of three phases required in medical research, scientists gave doses of medication to 30 patients with severe liver cancer. They received three doses, injected into the blood or into their tumors, over a month.
Those who took a higher dose lived for 14 months on average, compared to seven months for those who took the lower dose. The researchers reported that the drug appeared to have an effect not only on the liver tumors but also in cancer cells that had spread elsewhere in the body.
While the study is "by no means definitive" overall, that's good news, said Dr. Neal Meropol, chair of the division of hematology and oncology at Case Western University and the Seidman Cancer Center at University Hospitals, in Cleveland.
As for side effects, patients all felt like they had the flu for about a day, Kirn said. About one-third of those who took the higher dose developed anorexia.
Kirn said the research will continue. He declined to provide a specific estimate of how much the drug will cost, but he did say that its production is not "exceedingly expensive."
The study appears online in the Feb. 10 issue of the journal Nature Medicine.
For more about cancer, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: David Kirn, M.D., president, research and development, and founder and chief medical officer, Jennerex Biotherapeutics, San Francisco; Neal Meropol, M.D., chair, division of hematology and oncology, Seidman Cancer Center, University Hospitals, and Case Western U
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