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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

Avastin May Stop Rectal Cancer Spread

Patients in Study Show No Signs of New Cancer Growth in Area of Original Tumor
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Experimental Drug Shows Promise for Brain Cancer continued...

"These patients have a very poor prognosis, with fewer than 5% alive five years after diagnosis. There's a significant need for new therapies," says Tracy Batchelor, MD, executive director of the Stephen E. and Catherine Pappas Center for Neuro-Oncology at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Boston.

The researchers gave the pill to 31 people who had failed to respond to radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.

After six months, about 25% were alive without signs that their cancer had grown or spread. That might not seem like much, but with traditional treatment, only about 15% of the patients would fare this well, Batchelor tells WebMD.

On average, participants lived for 227 days; the average time to tumor regrowth was 117. In contrast, people with glioblastoma given traditional treatment typically live only 175 days, and the average time to progression is usually 63 days, he says.

In addition, cediranib was found to alleviate brain swelling, "a huge problem with the type of cancer that makes patients stay on steroids for long periods of time," Batchelor says.

Two of the 31 patients had to stop taking cediranib due to drug-related fatigue. Other common, but manageable, side effects included high blood pressure and diarrhea.

Batchelor says the pill works similarly to Avastin, blocking the growth of new blood vessels that feed tumors and normalizing remaining vessels.

He says a larger trial that will pit cediranib plus standard chemotherapy against chemotherapy alone is scheduled to start enrolling patients this summer.

Using the Body's Immune System to Fight Prostate Cancer

In many ways, cancer is a malfunction of the body's immune system. Tumor cells often grow and spread because the body doesn't recognize them as foreign.

Two other teams of researchers are taking unique approaches to manipulate the immune system to recognize cancer cells as alien invaders that need to be wiped out.

First, they remove the brakes on the immune system. That's accomplished with a drug called ipilimumab. It blocks CTLA-4, a molecule on immune system cells that inhibits the immune response.

Then, they jump-start the immune system to attack the cancer -- in one case with a vaccine called GVAX and in the other, with a compound called GM-CSF.

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