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Thalidomide to be trialled against mesothelioma


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Thalidomide to be trialled against mesotheliomaArticle from: Font size: Decrease Increase Email article: Email Print article: Print Submit comment: Submit comment Janelle Miles

January 01, 2008 11:00pm

NOTORIOUS morning sickness drug Thalidomide, which caused severe birth defects in the 1950s and 1960s, is about to be trialled as a treatment for asbestos-related mesothelioma.

Cancer specialist Nick Pavlakis said Thalidomide had been shown to inhibit blood vessel growth within tumours and he planned to test its value in mesothelioma patients.

He hopes to recruit about 100 patients Australia-wide for the study, which will compare those receiving chemotherapy with others given the standard treatment as well as Thalidomide.

"We want to find out after they've had chemotherapy . . . if we give Thalidomide can we then control the disease for longer and maintain quality of life for longer?" Professor Pavlakis said.

He said the results of the trial would be combined with a similar study taking place in the Netherlands.

Thalidomide is already listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme as a treatment for multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer.

Studies have found the standard chemotherapy cocktail increases survival of mesothelioma patients by an average of three months as well as improving quality of life.

Professor Pavlakis, of Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital, said even if Thalidomide extended that to five months, it would be considered significant.

"That doesn't sound like a lot but . . . everything's a stepping stone," Professor Pavlakis said.

"If you look at breast cancer and other diseases where there's been major changes, at any given time point the changes didn't seem as big when they actually were discovered.

"It's the cumulative effect of little changes over time that add up to a big effect."

About 600 Australians are diagnosed with the disease each year but that is expected to double by 2020.

"Everyone acknowledges it's going to get worse . . . based on when the maximum asbestos exposures in the community were," Professor Pavlakis said.

"There's a lag time of 30 to 40 years on average from the time of exposure to the time of disease."

Only about 5 per cent of those diagnosed with mesothelioma were alive five years later, Professor Pavlakis said.

Mesothelioma patient Trevor Stagg, 70, and his wife, Eileen, of Victoria Point, said they were grateful for every extra day they had together after his diagnosis in June.

"I really feel more for the families of people who go out one day, have an accident and don't come home. I wonder how they cope with that," Mrs Stagg said.

"Each day is really precious to us. We've been married 51 years last Saturday. We've even got closer."

The Queensland arm of the Thalidomide trial will be run through Brisbane's Prince Charles Hospital.

Patients wanting to take part should contact the National Health and Medical Research Council's Clinical Trials Centre on 02 9562 5000 or the Australasian Lung Cancer Trials Group on 07 3622 2301.

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