Targeted Chemo Tested

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Thursday, August 18, 2011 - 9:12am

New drugs go directly to cancer cells.

On Tuesday Robert Chambers received his last of six treatments with an experimental drug therapy designed to target his bladder cancer, which had spread to his liver and lymph nodes.

His wife Alice says before enrolling in this clinical trial he was in a lot pain.

"He was in the bed all the time exhausted, and he was ready to let go. We were pretty close to the edge of saying it can't go on like this," she said.

In the pharmacy at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, they carefully mix the
combination therapy designed by a Nobel prize wining researcher at the University of Miami.

AEZS 108 combines a traditional chemotherapy agent adriamycin with a synthetic version of a hormone produced by the brain.

It helps deliver the chemo right to the cancer cells, which are covered with receptors for that hormone.

That's why this is called targeted therapy.

"It's like a lock and key and if you take a bomb and attach it to the key you can deliver a bomb to the cancer cell. And that's how the stuff works," UM researcher Dr. Norman Block said.

Chambers' oncologist Dr. Gustavo Fernandez adds: "That means that in theory the drug will internalize in the cancer cells not so much in the normal cells."

Chambers is the first patient here to try this experimental targeted therapy, and he's had promising results.

"I had a tumor that I could feel in my neck and after two treatments I couldn't feel it anymore. After two treatments I was off the pain medications," he said.

In July, the Chambers were able to celebrate their 43rd anniversary.

"He's back to vacuuming the pool and cooking and all those good things," Alice Chambers said.

Doctors said his tumors were 70 percent smaller after four treatments.

UM is one of only two sites in the country testing this new therapy.

Candidates are patients with bladder cancer that has spread and have failed traditional chemotherapy treatment.

"In California one of our collaborators is using it for prostate cancer that's become resistant to normal chemicals and it's working very well," Block said.

At UM Sylvester, researchers are hoping to try this new therapy on two other types of tumors _ pancreas and breast.

They hope to start before the end of the year.
 

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