Five of six patients whose copper levels were kept at one-fifth of normal for more than 90 days had no growth of existing tumors or formation of new ones, according to a paper published in the January issue of Clinical Cancer Research. The sixth had progression of only one tumor; all other tumors within her body remained stable. Twelve other patients did not achieve the target copper level, or could not stay at the target level for 90 days, because of disease progression.
The surprising finding is the first evidence in humans that physicians might fight multiple types of cancer by targeting copper as a 'common denominator' of angiogenesis - the process by which tumors grow the blood vessels that allow them to expand beyond a tiny cluster of cells.
The copper strategy is not limited to a single type of cancer, as are other anti-angiogenesis agents now being studied around the world. Patients in the phase I trial at the U-M had metastatic cancer of the breast, kidney, colon, lung, skin, pancreas, prostate, throat, cartilage, blood vessels or endothelium. All had exhausted other conventional treatment options.
The U-M trial used oral doses of an inexpensive compound called tetrathiomolybdate, or TM, to lower the patients' copper levels. TM was originally developed for clinical use by George J. Brewer, M.D., a U-M human genetics professor, to treat people with Wilson's disease, a rare genetic disorder caused by excess copper. His work has shown TM to be the world's most potent anti-copper agent, and has also demonstrated that it is safe to use.
Aware of earlier research indicating that copper is important for angiogenesis, Brewer did work in the e
Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System