Monday, September 30, 2013

Old drugs bring new hope to lung cancer patients

Yes, I wish researchers could develop new classes of anti-cancer drugs.  But going back and finding new uses for existing medications saves everyone a lot of money.  Check this out:

Could Antidepressant Combat Lethal Lung Cancer?

Little-used depression drug shows early promise in lab, mice studies

September 27, 2013

FRIDAY, Sept. 27 (HealthDay News) -- An older and little-used class of antidepressants may help combat a particularly deadly form of lung cancer, according to a new study.

Using a unique computer program, researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine identified tricyclic antidepressants as a potential treatment for small cell lung cancer. This class of drugs was introduced decades ago and is still approved for use in the United States, but has been supplanted by newer antidepressants with fewer side effects.

Follow-up experiments showed that the tricyclic antidepressant called imipramine (Tofranil), was effective against human small cell lung cancer cells grown in the laboratory and growing as tumors in mice. The drug activated a self-destruction pathway in the cancer cells and slowed or blocked the spread of cancer in mice.
Imipramine maintained its effectiveness regardless of whether the cancer cells had previously been exposed, and become resistant, to traditional chemotherapy treatments, according to the study, which was published online Sept. 27 in the journal Cancer Discovery.

Because tricyclic antidepressants already have U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for use in people, the Stanford team was quickly able to launch a clinical trial to test imipramine in patients with small cell lung cancer and certain other types of cancer. They are currently recruiting patients for the phase-2 trial.
"We are cutting down the decade or more and the $1 billion it can typically take to translate a laboratory finding into a successful drug treatment to about one to two years and spending about $100,000," study co-senior author Dr. Atul Butte, director of the Center for Pediatric Bioinformatics at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, said in a university news release.

"The five-year survival for small cell lung cancer is only 5 percent," study co-senior author Julien Sage, an associate professor of pediatrics, said in the news release. "There has not been a single efficient therapy developed in the last 30 years. But when we began to test these drugs in human cancer cells grown in a dish and in a mouse model, they worked, and they worked, and they worked."

Another drug, an antihistamine called promethazine (Phenergan), also exhibited the ability to kill cancer cells, according to the researchers.

More information
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about small cell lung cancer.
Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Celgene's breast cancer drug approved for pancreatic cancer now, too

How tough is pancreatic cancer to treat?  FDA approval of existing cancer drug, Abraxane, based on anemic overall survival (OS) stat improvement of a meager 1.8 months.  Here's a short article about it, courtesy of HealthDay News:

Abraxane Approved for Late-Stage Pancreatic Cancer

Previously sanctioned for cancers of the lung and breast

FRIDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for Abraxane (paclitaxel) has been expanded to include advanced pancreatic cancer, the agency said Friday in a news release.

The agency previously approved the chemotherapy drug to treat cancers of the lung and breast.
Some 45,220 people are expected to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, and an estimated 38,460 will die from it, the FDA said.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer death. Surgery is the only way to permanently remove pancreatic cancer, but it's usually too late for surgery by the time most cases are identified, the agency said.

Abraxane's safety and effectiveness in treating pancreatic cancer were evaluated in clinical trials involving 861 people. Those treated with Abraxane and another chemotherapy drug, gemcitabine, lived an average of 1.8 months longer than those treated with gemcitabine alone.

Common side effects of the drug combination included a drop in white blood cells and blood platelets, fatigue, nerve damage in the extremities, vomiting, diarrhea and fever.
Abraxane is marketed by Celgene, based in Summit, N.J.

1.8 months?  Hard to say if I would endure side effects like those for such a short return on my quality of life "investment."

I have an acquaintance battling pancreatic cancer now. Doing better than Mayo Clinic docs expected.  Original six month prognosis may turn into a year or more.  Not sure if he is using this drug as part of his ongoing chemotherapy regimen...

Tough stuff!  Feel good and keep smiling!  Pat

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Valerie Harper Cancer Update

I watched Valerie Harper last night on "Hot in Cleveland."  Sort of a Mary Tyler Moore TV show reunion. 

Here's an update on her progress fighting terminal brain cancer.  Sounds like she's doing pretty well!

Valerie Harper's Terminal Brain Cancer "Pretty Close to a Remission," Says Her Doctor—Watch Now

by Rebecca Macatee Thu., Aug. 29, 2013

Valerie Harper went public with her terminal brain cancer diagnosis in March 2013, but five months later, things are looking hopeful for the beloved Mary Tyler Moore star.

In fact, according to her doctor, the 74-year-old actress is "getting pretty close to remission." But, as Dr. Jeremy Rudnick explained in an interview excerpted on Today, Thursday, Aug. 29,  the rare form of cancer will still be fatal.

"It defies the odds," he explained of Valerie's response to chemotherapy as well as alternative treatments like acupuncture, but he explained that her leptomeningeal carcinomatosis will "develop resistance to the therapy." Meaning? "It's not a matter of if (the cancer becomes resistant)," said Dr. Rudnick, "it's a matter of when."

NEWS: Valerie Harper begins work on TV movie

"Going from having three months to live, or less; we're into our sixth month, and now there's even hope beyond right now we're looking at—" he started.

And Harper interjected cheerily, "We're looking at Christmas!"

"Life is about buying time," her physician said.

Harper agreed, saying "Exactly…That's what I always say."

Lots of great video; go to:

We wish her all the best.  Feel good and keep smiling!  Pat