News Briefs

Published: Thursday, May 20, 2010
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Parasitic Mushroom Fights Cancer

Studies in the 1950s found that cordycepin, a mushroom-derived chemical traditionally used in Chinese medicine, degraded too rapidly in vivo to be an effective anticancer agent. Researchers at University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom recently took another look at the drug. They found administering cordycepin with an adenosine deaminase inhibitor facilitated better study of its effects. Low doses of cordycepin inhibited cell growth and division, and high doses prevented cellular adhesion. These effects likely resulted from cordycepin’s ability to interfere with protein synthesis by shutting down mTOR signaling; it inhibits mTORC 1 and mTORC 2 and activates the AMP activated kinase pathway. Cordycepin proved active in a number of human cell lines, including colon carcinoma. Cordycepin comes from cordyceps, a parasitic mushroom that grows on caterpillars. The study was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Apaziquone Trials Meet Enrollment Goals

Two phase III clinical trials investigating apaziquone in non-muscle invasive bladder cancer have completed enrollment, according to an announcement from Spectrum Pharmaceuticals. Cumulatively, the trials enrolled more than 1600 patients with Ta G1 or G2 low-risk noninvasive bladder cancer. Patients will be randomized to a single 4-mg dose of apaziquone or placebo following tumor excision. The primary endpoint is recurrence at 2 years. The FDA granted apaziquone fast-track designation, and if the trials are successful, the drug would become the first approved treatment for immediate installation following transurethral resection of bladder tumor.

Glioblastoma Multiforme Not One Disease

In an article published in Cancer Cell, researchers suggest that glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is not a singular disease but instead encompasses several disease subtypes. In a study of 206 tissue samples from patients with GBM, the scientists identified four molecularly distinct types of brain tumors. It appears that each subtype may originate from different types of cells, introducing the possibility that they might require different therapies. For example, one subtype progressed more slowly when treated with aggressive chemotherapy and radiation.

Figitumumab Trial Halted

Pfizer ended a phase III study of the experimental agent figitumumab in non-adenocarcinoma non–small cell lung cancer after data showed it was unlikely to extend life compared with standard treatment. In September 2009, Pfizer stopped enrollment in the trial after the monitoring committee expressed concern that patients receiving figitumumab had a higher rate of death and other adverse events. Pfizer is continuing to test the IGF-1R inhibitor, which blocks a substance thought to stimulate growth of cancer cells, in other solid tumors.

Post-Transplant, Lenalidomide Prolongs PFS in Multiple Myeloma

An interim analysis of data from the IFM 2005 02 trial showed that lenalidomide (Revlimid) prolonged progression-free survival in patients with multiple myeloma following stem cell transplantation. After the transplant, all patients in the trial received 2 cycles of lenalidomide, after which patients were randomized to lenalidomide or placebo. The independent data and safety monitoring committee concluded that the main goal of the trial had been met. Further results will be presented at a conference later in 2010.

Acupuncture Relieves Vasomotor Symptoms

A study that compared acupuncture with standard pharmaceuticals in treating vasomotor symptoms in women with breast cancer on anti-estrogen hormones found both therapies equally effective. In addition, acupuncture was associated with enhanced libido and mental clarity and produced no adverse effects. The author of the Journal of Clinical Oncology article noted that although the trial included only 50 patients, the fact that acupuncture was compared with drug therapy lessens the likelihood that the positive results stemmed from a placebo effect. Previous data have shown that acupuncture relieves hot flashes in menopausal women, which supports this study’s results.

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