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Promising news from Astra Zeneca about Recentin


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AstraZeneca drug may shrink tumors

Company encouraged by study involving brain-cancer patients

By GARY HABER, The News Journal

Posted Thursday, January 18, 2007

An experimental cancer drug developed by AstraZeneca PLC has shown striking promise in shrinking the most virulent form of brain tumors, according to a study published in the January issue of the journal Cancer Cell.

The midstage clinical trial, conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Boston, examined patients who were given Recentin, also called AZD2171, during a six-month period. All had gliobastomas, or brain tumors, which had not stopped growing even after earlier treatment with either chemotherapy or radiation.

Of the 16 patients examined in the first phase of the study, 12 had their tumors shrink in size by at least 25 percent. Eight saw their tumors shrink by 50 percent or more. Recentin, part of a new class of drugs known as angiogenesis inhibitors, works by suppressing the blood vessels on which the tumors feed.

The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, also found that the drug reduced brain swelling, which is currently treated only by steroid treatments.

Despite the good results, a researcher and an AstraZeneca spokeswoman each cautioned that the results are in the early stages and that further study is needed.

Researchers have yet to complete their study in which a total of 31 people were administered the drug, or test it in a larger group of patients.

"We're excited about the results, but we want to make clear that while the results are promising, it is preliminary data," said Katie Neff, an AstraZeneca spokeswoman.

The company, which developed Recentin, hopes to study the drug in a wider number of patients, Neff said. AstraZeneca, whose U.S. headquarters is in Fairfax, is also conducting its own clinical trials of Recentin in patients with lung or colon cancer.

Dr. Terry Batchelor, the study's lead author, said in a statement announcing the results that while they are preliminary, "it's looking like these agents may play an increasingly important role in the treatment of patients whose tumors have recurred and perhaps in newly diagnosed patients as well."

Dr. Michael Guarino, director of oncologic pharmaceutical research at Christiana Care Health System's Helen F. Graham Cancer Center, said he is interested in whether Recentin can produce similar results in a larger group of patients. If so, the drug could be an option for patients suffering from gliobastoma, with less-severe side effects than seen in patients treated with chemotherapy or radiation, Guarino said.

"It's only been used in a few patients, but it's encouraging not only in brain cancer but across the board," he said.

Gliobastoma is the most-common form of brain cancer in adults and a condition in which the average prognosis, even with treatment, is now usually one year or less. More than 200,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with brain tumors each year.

If Recentin were approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it would give AstraZeneca a tumor-fighting product that would compete with Genentech's Avastin, and help AstraZeneca bolster its drug development pipeline after several disappointments in the past year. In the past 12 months, the company dropped development of several once-promising experimental drugs, including a blood thinner and a diabetes drug.

This article contains information from Bloomberg News.

Contact Gary Haber at 324-2878 or ghaber@delawareonline.com.

STUDY RESULTS

Of the 16 patients examined in the first phase of the study, 12 had tumors shrink in size by at least 25 percent. Eight saw their tumors shrink by 50 percent or more

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