Experimental drugs show promise in halting brain tumors

BOSTON -- Researchers at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center have shown that four new and experimental drugs can strongly inhibit the growth of deadly brain tumors in animals, and they expect these promising results to hold true in humans, as well.

In fact, one of the drugs -- ZD6474 -- significantly slowed the growth of three different types of brain tumors, a remarkable finding given that brain tumors are very distinct in their biologic makeup, said Jeremy Rich, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine in the Brain Tumor Center at Duke.

"Despite our best efforts in the laboratory and the clinic, the survival rate for glioblastoma -- the most common and lethal brain tumor -- hasn't changed in 10 years, said Rich. "This new class of drugs has shown great promise in treating human tumors that were grown in mice, and we feel these results are indicative of how the drugs may act in humans."

Rich will present results of the three studies -- funded by the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and ABC2 -- at the Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics Meeting in Boston Nov. 17-21, 2003.

Each of the new drugs is designed to aim for a specific target within brain cancer cells, as opposed to the current strategy in which the body is indiscriminately bombarded with chemotherapy --the so called "sledgehammer" approach, said Rich. Tumors are often resistant to chemotherapy, and patients can suffer unpleasant side effects due to its toxicity.

The new drugs selectively target particular molecules within brain tumors, so they should be more effective inhibitors of tumor growth and carry far fewer side effects for the patient, said Rich.

Moreover, the selective nature of the new drugs means they will target different types of tumors, each of which exhibits its own unique characteristics. Thus, doctors will be able to customize therapy based on each individual's tumor type.

"Brain tumors are very diverse in their molecular makeup

Contact: Becky Levine
Duke University Medical Center

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