An experimental drug derived from cottonseed proved effective in hindering the growth of the type of brain cancer that caused Ted Kennedy’s death. The drug completed Phase II clinical trials under the direction of researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).
According to the University’s website, the cottonseed-derived drug, which is named AT-101, demonstrated the ability to retard the abnormal growth of tumor cells in glioblastoma multiforme, a rapidly growing type of brain cancer that is difficult to treat. The clinical trial included 56 patients with glioblastoma multiforme whose tumors had continued to grow despite treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Kennedy underwent all three treatments before his death.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 21,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with brain tumors. Of these about 10,000 are glioblastomas. A glioma is any tumor that forms in the glial brain cells, the most abundant cells in the central nervous system. Glioma is not a specific type of cancer but a category of brain tumor that includes glioblastoma multiforme, astrocytomas, oligodendrogliomas, and ependymomas.
The clinical trial involved once daily administration of the cottonseed extract drug in pill form for three of four weeks. In many of the patients the cancer stopped progressing. The lead researcher on the study, John Fiveash, MD, an associate professor in the UAB’s Department of Radiation Oncology, reported that some patients had no new growth of their tumors for many months.
The cottonseed-derived drug was well tolerated, and Dr. Fiveash noted that AT-101 may work well when combined with radiation and chemotherapy to enhance the cancer-fighting properties of the conventional treatments. Dr. Fiveash presented his findings at the American Society for Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, in May 2009.
Future research into the safety and efficacy of the cottonseed extract will hopefully lead to an effective treatment option for glioblastomas, which are the most common primary brain tumors. This form of brain cancer is typically diagnosed in people age 55 years and older, and it is common for a glioblastoma to recur after treatment. Generally, the median survival for people who have glioblastoma is 12 to 15 months after diagnosis. Ted Kennedy fought his battle for 15 months.
American Cancer Society
University of Alabama at Birmingham news release May 28, 2009
Written by Deborah Mitchell
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