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Drug developed for rare disease may help millions more as treatment for cancer, autoimmune diseases

and if left untreated can cause severe liver damage and neurological effects and eventually death.

Positive results of phase III clinical studies on TM in Wilson's disease were published last winter. Brewer is currently looking for a drug company to submit it for approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as an orphan drug for treating Wilson's disease. Meanwhile, patients have come to UMHS from all over the world to receive treatment through the clinical trials protocol.

While the Wilson's treatment began to achieve success in the early 1990s, research at U-M and elsewhere started to uncover the role of copper in angiogenesis, or the formation of new blood vessels. This is a process that occurs normally in the body but becomes uncontrolled in cancerous cells. Researchers found copper was important to various molecules called growth factors that are necessary to the organizing process by which cells become part of new blood vessels.

That launched Brewer into a new direction with TM as an anti-angiogenesis drug. He began working with breast cancer researchers, particularly Sofia Merajver, M.D., at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center. In 2000, they published promising results of a pilot clinical trial. From there, many more trials have begun, some of which are now reporting positive early results.

"TM inhibits angiogenesis and growth factor by reducing the copper," Brewer says. "Essentially, the drug blocks the key signaling pathway, preventing tumor cells from sending signals to form new blood vessels, which thereby prevents or slows the cancer from growing or spreading."

TM is made up of the elements sulfur and molybdenum. These combined elements latch on to copper in the blood and to a protein called albumin. The three-part complex formed by this bonding is then eliminated by the body. For Wilson's patients, this brings high copper levels down to normal ranges. In cancer, it creates a mild copper deficiency, which is
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Contact: Nicole Fawcett
nfawcett@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
10-Sep-2003


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