New Anticancer Magic Bullet

11 January 2004


Doctors in America have pioneered a new treatment for lymphoma, a type of cancer of the blood, that can selectively home in on cancer cells whilst leaving the rest of the bodies' tissues unharmed. This is a big step forward in cancer treatment because many traditional cancer therapies involve giving drugs or radiation to kill rapidly growing cells – like those found in tumours - but also damage many of the bodies healthy tissues in the process. It's the damage to the healthy tissues that produces many of the severe side effects including hair loss, nausea, abdominal pain and loss of appetite. But the new agent, which is called Bexxar, consists of a radioactive substance that can kill cells, linked to an antibody that hunts down and sticks on to cancer cells, but not healthy cells, delivering the toxic dose of radioactivity only to where it is needed – in the tumour – and nowhere else. So far the new agent has been tested on patients for whom traditional chemotherapy has stopped working and for whom the prognosis would be poor. But for these patients, clinical trials found 70 percent of patients responded to Bexxar and 20 percent to 30 percent achieved a complete remission, where no signs of lymphoma are present in imaging tests or biopsy. Mark Kaminski, who helped to develop the new agent, said "this offers a new option and provides hope for patients who had run out of options.


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