April 15, 2008 (San Diego) -- Adding the cancer drug Avastin to standard
treatment stopped cancer spread in 22 of 24 patients with rectal tumors,
The patients were given Avastin, chemotherapy, and radiation prior to
surgery to have their tumors removed. Three years later, all the patients were
alive and 91% had no signs their disease was getting worse.
And none had new cancer growth in the area of the original tumor, says
Rakesh Jain, PhD, the Andrew Werk Professor of Tumor Biology at Harvard Medical
"I know of no other therapy in this patient population where we can even
get close to 100% tumor control. Although this needs to be confirmed in a
randomized trial against a placebo group, these are very impressive
numbers," he says.
Avastin was one of several drugs that took center stage
during the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer research this
week. Other researchers report that a drug that starves tumors of their blood
supply shows promise for the treatment of one of the deadliest forms of brain
Still other researchers have had early success turbo-charging the body's own
immune system to fight prostate
Its cancer-fighting abilities have been attributed to its ability to prevent
tumors from growing new blood vessels, thereby choking them to death.
The new research in rectal
cancer patients suggests that it works in another remarkable way as well:
It also repairs remaining blood vessels, Jain tells WebMD.
"Some of the blood vessels are pruned away immediately. But the vessels
that remain become less abnormal. This creates a less hostile environment so
radiation and chemotherapy can work better," he says.
The researchers monitored the repair of blood vessels using imaging scans
and blood tests for biomarkers known to be involved in cancer growth, according
Experimental Drug Shows Promise for Brain Cancer
In a second study, the experimental drug cediranib helped shrink tumors and
prolong the lives of people with a relatively common but often fatal type of
brain cancer called glioblastoma.
"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.