colon cancer treatments.
A new drug,
in combination with conventional chemotherapy, allowed patients
to live an average of 20 months, 1/3 longer than with chemotherapy
alone. Genentech released Avastin, a protein which inhibits blood
vessel growth in tumors. After trying Avastin on several different
cancers, it appeared to work in colon cancer.
The Mayo clinic
also released a study which showed a chemotherapy cocktail of 5-fluorouracil,
leucovorin and oxaliplatin also prolonged life by 20 months. Now
the National Cancer Institute is testing Avastin with oxaliplatin
in cancer patients.
also released Erbitux which succeeded in shrinking tumors in patients
with otherwise untreatable colon cancer. This is a new class of
drugs which work with pinpoint accuracy to against molecule-level
defects that make the cancer flourish. In a group of 329 patients
who failed to respond to a chemotherapy drug, irinotecan, Erbitux
was added. It was believed that Erbitux would restore some of the
percent of patients receiving Erbitux with irinotecan had their
tumors shrink by at least half. Unfortunately, this effect was brief
and the survival rate was only about nine months.
The bottom line
is that we are making progress against a very tough cancer. When
I was in school the average patient only survived about 6 months
and now is survival is up to 20 months. It is possible that various
combinations of these and other drugs currently being worked on
could one day cure cancer. Hope is still there!