26 May 2010

Sea sponge-derived drug treats several cancers

- An experimental new breast cancer drug made from sea sponges helped in a range of cancers, from breast cancer to sarcoma, researchers report.

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WASHINGTON, May 20 (Reuters) - An experimental new breast cancer drug made from sea sponges helped in a range of cancers, from breast cancer to sarcoma, researchers report.Three studies show the drug, Eisai's eribulin, was effective and tolerated in patients with breast cancer, colon cancer and urinary cancer, according to brief data released on Thursday by the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Sarcomas are cancers that grow from muscle or bone.A fourth study of patients with advanced breast cancer will be detailed in a "late-breaker" session at ASCO's annual meeting in June.The drug is not yet approved, but Eisai has filed with relevant agencies in Japan, the United States and Europe.The drug works on the same principle, but with a slightly different mechanism as older cancer drugs such as the taxanes and is infused intravenously.Only a few details are available in the abstracts of the research published ahead of the meeting.Researchers at Aichi Cancer Center in Nagoya, Japan and several other Japanese sites tested eribulin in 81 breast cancer patients whose cancer had come back despite several rounds of chemotherapy.They said 21 percent of the patients had some response to the drug and side-effects were common -- 95 percent had low blood counts. Nonetheless they said the drug was effective and tolerable.Researchers at the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer tested eribulin in several types of advanced soft tissue sarcoma and found varying responses but said it deserved further study.Up to 45 percent of the patients with one type of sarcoma saw three months before their tumors began growing again -- a significant result in advanced cancer.And a team led by the California Cancer Consortium at the University of Southern California and elsewhere will report details of a mid-stage study of 40 patients with advanced urological cancer. They said 38 percent of the group had a response to eribulin.An international team will report more details at the meeting itself in their trial of patients with breast cancer.


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