New Treatment Under Investigation At University Of Maryland Could Dramatically Reduce Colon Cancer Deaths

An experimental new treatment for advanced colon cancer shows promise of saving thousands of lives a year, says a University of Maryland Medical Center physician who has begun clinical trials.

The therapy involves intravenous administration of two standard drugs and a newer drug in a different combination than the standard treatment. Early results from a similar study showed complete or partial remission in 96 percent of patients.

"Things are beginning to dramatically change in the way we treat colon cancer," says David Van Echo, M.D., an oncologist at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center and professor of medicine and pharmacy at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"This new therapy is very promising for patients who have colon cancer that has recurred or spread to other organs," he says. The Phase-II trial involves giving the patient the drug CPT-11 (irinotecan) for 30 minutes, followed by leucovorin for 2 hours and a drug called 5-FU (5 fluorouracil) for 24 hours by intravenous drip. The patient begins therapy in the doctor's office but then goes home while the third drug is being infused.

"CPT-11 is a fairly new agent, leucovorin has been a standard treatment and 5-FU has been around for about 45 years," Dr. Van Echo explains. "What's new is this particular sequencing and a more frequent administration of the drugs at higher doses. Under current standards of care, the best that a patient with advanced colon cancer can expect is a reduction in the mortality rate from 60 percent to 50 percent. With this treatment we hope to get that down to 5 percent."

Van Echo stresses that this is just one of several approaches and that people with recurrent or metastasized cancer should seek out and enroll in clinical trials because it may be the only way for them to get some of the newer drugs and therapies. Also, enrolling in clinical trials has become easier for patients in Maryl

Contact: Ira Allen
University of Maryland Medical Center

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