New therapy may give options to those with neuroendocrine tumors

ORLANDO, Fla., May 15- A unique, targeted anti-cancer drug appears to show promise against neuroendocrine tumors-stubborn cancers that have traditionally responded poorly to chemotherapy, according to research findings announced today at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, or ASCO.

Called SU11248, the drug was evaluated in a phase II clinical trial for carcinoid tumors and pancreatic islet cell tumors. About 80 percent of patients saw their disease stabilize (cancer stopped growing), and about 10 percent of those with islet cell tumors had tumors that actually partially shrank in response to the drug.

Carcinoid and pancreatic islet cell tumors have few tolerable, successful treatments, says medical oncologist Heinz-Josef Lenz, M.D., associate professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California and co- principal investigator on the trial. "Other than surgery to remove a tumor, treatment for these cancers usually focuses on easing the symptoms. It is critical to find therapies that offer treatment options for these cancers."

Today, only 18 percent of patients diagnosed with metastatic neuroendocrine cancer survive for five years after diagnosis, and complete cure is impossible. Doctors diagnose about 2,500 of the tumors in the nation a year, according to the latest estimates by the American Cancer Society.

USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center was one of only a handful of sites in the nation to offer the trial. The study was presented at ASCO by Matthew H. Kulke, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at Harvard University.

SU11248 is part of a new generation of investigational, multi-targeted therapies, Lenz explains. It hinders three types of proteins and receptors that cancer cells need to thrive. It appears to go after not only the cancer cells, but also the blood vessels that nourish cancerous tumors and the tissue that supports tumors in the body.

Contact: Jon Weiner
University of Southern California

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