Doctors are reporting improved survival from an experimental drug that delivers radiation directly to tumor cells in men with advanced prostate cancer.
Currently, such drugs are rarely approved, but the approach could be a new way to treat cancers that are difficult or unsuitable for other treatments.
The study tested a new class of medicine called radiopharmaceuticals, drugs that deliver radiation directly to cancer cells. In this case, the drug is a molecule that contains two parts: a follower and a useful charge that kills cancer.
Trillions of these molecules hunt cancer cells and attach to protein receptors on the cell membrane. The load-bearing emits radiation, which hits the tumor cells in its area.
“You can treat tumors you don’t see. Wherever the drug goes, the drug can reach tumor cells, ”said Dr. Frank Lin, who played no role in the study, but headed the department that helped the National Medical Cancer Institute develop these drugs.
The results were announced Thursday by the American Society of Clinical Oncology ahead of its annual meeting this weekend. The study was funded by drug maker Novartis, which plans to apply for approval in the U.S. and Europe later this year.
If the cancer is confined to the prostate, the radiation can be irradiated to the body or placed in granules.
But in prostate cancer, these methods don’t work well. In the United States, approximately 43,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, and it has spread and is no longer responding to hormone-blocking treatments.
The study tested a new method of radiation therapy in such patients.
It was attended by 831 men with advanced prostate cancer. Two-thirds were given radiation medication, and the rest served as a comparison group. Patients were given the drug by IV up to six times every six weeks.
About two years later, drug users performed better on average. The cancer persisted for almost nine months, and the rest lasted for three months. Survival was even better – about 15 months, compared to 11 months.
The income may not seem like much, but “there aren’t many opportunities for these patients,” said ASCO President Dr. Lori Pierce, a cancer specialist at the University of Michigan.
Radioactivity can reduce the production of blood cells, leading to anemia and coagulation problems in patients. In the study, 53% of patients had serious side effects compared to 38% of patients in the comparison group. Both groups were allowed different treatments.
The results will pave the way for goverlovebylifent approval and increase interest in radiation drugs, Lynn said.
Others performed include Novartis’ Lutathera for a rare type of stomach and bowel cancer.
And Bayer’s Hofigo is approved for men whose prostate cancer has spread to the bone, but not elsewhere. Hofigo focuses on areas in the body that are trying to restore bone loss from tumor injury, but they are not focused on prostate cancer cells no matter where they are in the body.
Because the experimental drug is aimed at tumor cells, “this will be the first thing for prostate cancer,” Lynn said.
Over the next decade, such drugs will “become a major focus of cancer research,” said Dr. Charles Kunos, who worked on radiopharmaceutical research standards at the National Cancer Institute before attending the University of Kentucky’s Markey Cancer Center. “This will be the next big wave of therapeutic development.”
Mary-Ellen Taplin, Ph.D., of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, reviewed the data, adding patients to the study, with drugs being tested for melanoma and breast, pancreatic and other cancers. .
As for prostate cancer, “it opens up future strategies, including in the early stages of the disease and other treatments,” said study leader Dr. Michael Morris of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Department of Scientific Education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.
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