Older drug could have exciting new role in treating colorectal cancer

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center are reporting how a 15-year-old drug could have a promising new role in the treatment of rectal cancer.

The drug is oxaliplatin, and when administered in combination with fluorouracil (5-FU) plus leucovorin--standard therapy for patients with advanced/metastatic colorectal cancer--it makes the radiation therapy more effective. Oxaliplatin is one in a family of platinum-based drugs, which contain small molecules that interact with DNA and disrupt the replication process. Some cancers, however, have developed resistance to other platinum-based drugs.

"This the first drug to come along in a while that's effective in treating human cancers that are resistant to other platinum-based therapies," said Suzanne M. Hess, Ph.D., associate professor of Radiation Oncology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and one of the authors of an abstract presented at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Washington, D.C. "One of the other benefits is that it works with a combination of other drugs and doesn't have the associated toxicities."

Oxiliplatin was developed in 1987 and used to treat cancers of the colon and rectum that had already spread to other organs, but the drug had never been fully explored to determine if it would be safe or effective in patients with an earlier stage of the disease. Researchers at Wake Forest tackled that question in the lab, and in 2002 published the first abstract showing that oxaliplatin could safely and dramatically enhance the impact of standard radiation therapy.

After a speedy review in 2002, the Food and Drug Administration approved oxaliplatin (EloxatinTM, manufactured by Sanofi-Synthelabo) in combination with 5-FU and leucovorin for patients with metastatic cancer of the colon or rectum.

"The encouraging pre-clinical studies from Wake Forest, in part, resulted in several cooperative

Contact: Karen Richardson
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

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