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Diabetes Drug Dramatically Boosts Potency of Platinum Chemotherapy

A widely used diabetes drug dramatically boosted the potency of platinum-based cancer drugs when administered together to a variety of cancer cell lines and to mice with tumors, scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute report.

Combining a platinum chemotherapy agent and the diabetes drug rosiglitazone halted or shrank mouse tumors as much as three times more effectively than either of the drugs given alone, according to the article in the May issue of Cancer Cell.

If pairing the drugs has the same synergistic effect in humans, the researchers say, it could improve control of ovarian, lung and other cancers routinely treated with platinum-based chemotherapy, to which tumors eventually become resistant. Moreover, the experiments suggest the combination might extend the use of platinum drugs to other cancers where they haven't previously been shown to be effective.

"There's still a huge gulf between these experiments and human cancers," said Bruce Spiegelman, PhD, senior author of the report. "But it's worked in every animal model of cancer weve looked at, and I think theres a fair chance it will help people."

Dana-Farber researchers are already drawing up plans for initial clinical trials, which could begin sometime this year.

"We really see a way forward here to improve the chemotherapy's effectiveness for multiple forms of cancer," said George Demetri, MD, a Dana-Farber researcher who is preparing a proposal for a pilot study of rosizitaglone and platinum chemotherapy drugs in lung and ovarian cancer and sarcomas.

If a pilot study shows promising activity, the combination would need to be compared with standard chemotherapy in larger phase 2 and phase 3 trials involving many hundreds of patients.

Rosizitaglone, sold under the name Avandia, enhances insulin receptors' sensitivity in diabetics whose pancreas secretes too little insulin. It was approved in 1999 for use by patients with
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