Feed a Cold; Starve a Tumor
(ARA) – One of the most exciting developments in modern medicine has been the discovery that cancerous tumors have the potential of being “starved” out of existence, or at least into dormancy. Scientists, doctors and, of course, patients, are all anticipating the prospect that cancer patients may take a drug that will stop a tumor in its track by cutting off the blood supply that nourishes it.
At the core of this medical breakthrough was the discovery that every tumor needs to “recruit” its own blood supply to flourish and grow. Scientists also found out that tumors actively “participated” in this process by secreting certain growth chemicals that would attract blood vessels to the tumor. Having identified this process, the next step was to determine if drugs could be created that could somehow arrest or reverse the progress of blood vessels amassing around a tumor.
The result has been a highly dynamic and exciting area of medicine called anti-angiogenesis (meaning “against the formation of new blood vessels”) that focuses on inhibiting the growth of cancer by developing drugs that will prevent tumors from growing in size.
Currently, there are several drug companies that are on the cusp of introducing drugs that will work by the process of anti-angiogenesis. Generally speaking, the drugs seek to improve survival rates of cancer patients, as well as increase the length of time that patients survive. And unlike conventional cancer therapies that have punishing side effects, the new drugs seem to demonstrate few or no side effects for most people. Furthermore, some of the studies show that by utilizing both conventional treatments like radiation and/or chemotherapy in conjunction with anti-angiogenesis drugs, the cumulative effect is even more powerful.
One highly regarded company that is at the forefront of developing anti-angiogenesis drugs is Aeterna Laboratories, based in Quebec, Canada and traded on the Nasdaq market under the ticker symbol, AELA. The company’s premier product, Neovastat, is currently being tested in clinical trials for a variety of cancers including lung, renal (kidney) and multiple myeloma (bone marrow). The results for the renal and multiple myeloma tests are scheduled to wrap up by the end of 2002 and, if conclusive, will be submitted to the Federal Drug Administration for review.
Out of all the drugs under development, Neovastat is unique because of its multi-functionality, which is its ability to shut down two pathways recognized as being responsible for promoting angiogenesis (in contrast to other drugs which just block one pathway). In clinical trials, Neovastat has been shown to have no side effects in most people. This is obviously a big advantage for people who know the agony of nausea, exhaustion and/or hair loss that can accompany chemotherapy drugs. In tests, Neovastat has been given to people in liquid oral form, generally the preferable form of drug delivery for patients.
If you are a cancer patient interested in clinical trial participation, you can get information about current trials by calling (888)-349-3232 If you are an oncologist, please contact Claude Hariton, Ph.D., vice president of Clinical and Regulatory Affairs at (418) 652-8525 ext. 306. To learn more about anti-angiogenesis drugs and Aeterna Laboratories, visit the Aeterna Web site at www.aeterna.com.