February 21, 1997

Researchers test new cancer therapy

Researchers test new cancer therapy

Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers are investigating a new therapeutic drug for the treatment of various types of cancer.

The new drug is a synthetic compound designed to inhibit thymidylate synthase, an enzyme required for the rapid proliferation of cancer cells. VUMC is one of a selected number of sites across the country currently conducting clinical trials of this new investigational therapy.

"This trial is an example of important cancer research in progress at Vanderbilt," said Dr. Barbara A. Murphy, assistant professor of Medicine and the study's chief investigator at VUMC. "This drug represents a cutting edge concept that has shown initial signs of effectiveness in treating head and neck cancer, and I encourage all eligible patients to consider participating in the trial."

Preliminary results for use of the drug in the treatment of several cancer types have shown some promise, with anti-tumor activity observed in pilot studies.

In an ongoing study of 16 patients with non-small cell lung cancer, one patient experienced a partial response and 13 patients experienced disease stabilization. For these patients, the most commonly reported side effects are mouth sores, skin rash, anorexia, lowered blood counts and mild nausea and vomiting. Most of these side effects were reported to be temporary, and gradually resolved when treatment was stopped.

Though currently under way, the drug trial is still open to patients who have been diagnosed with head and neck cancer. At the close of the trial, patients may be given the option of continuing treatment.

To participate in the trial, patients must have locally advanced, recurrent or metastatic head and neck cancer, and have previously failed treatment with chemotherapy. Patients must be at least 18 years old and cannot be undergoing therapy with other investigational agents or taking homeopathic remedies or vitamin supplements. Also, patients with a history of another malignancy within the past five years ‹ with the exception of basal cell skin cancer or cervical cancer ‹ will not be able to participate in this study.

Interested patients can speak with the study coordinator to learn more about the details of the trial and their own eligibility by calling 343-9323.