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Drug that sends cancers ‘to sleep’ brings hope for millions

Published on 26 Nov. 2012 12:21 AM IST
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Scientists have discovered how to send cancer cells “to sleep” to stop the disease in its tracks.
They have created a new drug that “flips” molecular switches in the cancer’s structure so it cannot multiply, the Daily Express reported.
The drug, called Aflibercept, which is administered as a 30-minute infusion alongside chemotherapy, uses a novel mechanism that effectively fools tumours into becoming dormant.

Trials involving 1,406 patients have shown the breakthrough could prolong life by two years in some patients with advanced bowel cancer who have already undergone chemotherapy.

Aflibercept had a “statistically significant survival benefit” compared to conventional drug regimes treating bowel cancer, the researchers said.

Dr Rob Glynne Jones, Macmillan Clinical Lead for Gastrointestinal Cancer at Mount Vernon Hospital in Northwood, Middlesex, said: “The trial results were positive.

“Around 10,000 patients a year die from bowel cancer and most of them are having some form of chemotherapy so it is theoretically applicable to those. I am sure this drug will have a research programme and they will be extending it to all other cancers. Maybe they will find other cancers where it may be more effective,” he added.
The study has been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“Adding aflibercept to FOLFIRI chemotherapy in metastatic colorectal cancer patients previously treated with an oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy resulted in overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival [PFS] benefits that are both statistically significant and clinically meaningful,” reported investigator Josep Tabernero, MD, at the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference (EMCC; abstract LBA6).

The primary results of this trial were presented at the World Congress of Gastrointestinal Cancer and subgroup analyses were reported at the EMCC.

Dr. Tabernero, head of the Medical Oncology Department at Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona, Spain, noted that previous exposure to bevacizumab did not significantly affect the safety or efficacy of aflibercept. “Preplanned subgroup analyses supported the consistency and robustness of the efficacy results for aflibercept in all the different subgroups of patients,” including those previously treated with bevacizumab, he said.

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