The Academy: November 2007

By Prachi Petal-Predd
Published: Tuesday, Jun 29, 2010
%u25BA Paterson Institute at the University of Manchester, UK

New Drug Shows Promise for Childhood Cancers

Results of a preclinical study show that the new drug RH1 could be a potential tool against three types of childhood cancer. Researchers at Cancer Research UK’s Paterson Institute at the University of Manchester found that RH1 could kill tumor cells from neuroblastoma, osteosarcoma, and Ewing’s sarcoma (Figures). These tumors are often resistant to current chemotherapy treatment and can be fatal.

In cancer cells, apoptosis—the natural mechanism for cell suicide—shuts off functions improperly. RH1 works by increasing apoptosis. In laboratory tests on children’s tumors, the researchers led by Dr. Guy Makin, pediatric oncologist at the Paterson Institute, found that even at low doses, RH1 increased cancer cell death by 50% compared with untreated cells.

The bioreductive drug RH1 is activated by the enzyme DT-diaphorase (DTD), which is over-expressed in adult tumors, especially those in the lungs, breasts and liver. The drug was a nominated compound for advancement in the National Cancer Institute’s Developmental Therapeutics Program.

The Paterson Institute researchers recently completed a Phase I clinical trial of RH1 on adult cancer patients and presented their results at the 2007 American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting. Based on the promising Phase I adult trial and the more recent laboratory results on children’s tumors, the researchers are planning a Phase I trial of the drug on children with cancer. Dr. Bruce Morland, chairman of the Children’s Cancer and Leukemia Group said, “survival rates for children with cancer are already high at 75%. But in many cases, patients become resistant to their drugs and need new options.”

%u25BA University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

African-American Women Suffer Worse From Breast Cancer

A new study has confirmed that breast cancer is worse in African-American women—they are more likely than white women to have breast cancer at a younger age, to succumb to their disease, and to have ER-negative breast cancer. Researchers from the University of Michigan Cancer Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan reported these findings at the 2007 Breast Cancer Symposium in San Francisco on September 6.

The findings of the study did not change when income, education or insurance coverage were taken into account, said Catherine Lee, MD, a clinical lecturer in the department of surgery at the University of Michigan Cancer Center.

Dr. Lee and her colleagues studied the records of 170,079 women with breast cancer. Ninety percent of these women were white and nearly 10% were African American. Of the African-American women, 39% had ER-negative tumors as opposed to 22% of the white women. The average age of diagnosis was 57 years for African-American women whereas it was 62 for white women. Still, African-American women had more advanced cancer—29% of the women had stage I tumors compared with 42% of white women.

The study results support past research that has shown that there are biological differences in breast cancer tumors depending on race, likely because of genetic differences. “Differences in tumor biology have a signifi- cant impact on survival,” Dr. Lee said. Since breast cancers in black women are more aggressive biologically, we need to focus more of our research energy on developing better treatments targeting ER-negative tumors, she added. In addition, she said, “these findings point to a need for improved cancer education and screening in black women, particularly those in younger age groups.”

%u25BA University of Montreal

Nomogram Predicts Prostate Cancer Life Expectancy

Researchers at the University of Montreal in Canada have found that a simple nomogram using age and comorbidity predicts the 10- year life expectancy of prostate cancer patients who are considering radical prostatectomy or radiotherapy.

Prostate cancer patients should have an expectancy of at least 10 years if doctors are considering them as candidates for definitive therapy. Judging life expectancy is diffi- cult, said the researchers in a report in the August 20 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. An accurate estimate of life expectancy will help doctors decide the most beneficial course of treatment for a patient.

Nomograms are already used to help assess the risk of failure associated with specific prostate cancer treatments relative to other disease-related factors such as PSA levels and stage of the cancer. These nomograms are typically in the form of look-up tables.

The new tool, which has a simple and user-friendly computerized interface, was developed by Pierre Karakiewicz, MD, a urologist oncologist at the University of Montreal Health Center. It predicts the 10-year life expectancy after radical prostatectomy or external beam radiation therapy with an accuracy of 84.3%. This, they said, is about 3% more accurate than its alternatives. “Patients deserve to have the best tools and so do doctors,” Dr. Karakiewicz told Oncology & Biotech News.

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