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Experimental Drug Might Help Some a Bit With Colon Cancer

January 19, 2012
By

TUESDAY, Jan. 17 (HealthDay News) — The experimental cancer drug
regorafenib appears to extend survival slightly in patients with
metastatic colorectal cancer, a new trial indicates.

Regorafenib is a so-called multikinase inhibitor, which targets several
of the ways cancer develops and grows, researchers said.

“The drug was tested on patients with metastatic colorectal cancer who
had progressed after standard therapies, meaning they had no treatment
options available,” lead researcher Dr. Axel Grothey, a professor of
oncology at the Mayo Clinic, said during a noon press conference at the
Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium in San Francisco on Tuesday.

The drug is designed to stop tumor progression, both by preventing
cancer cells from growing and by preventing these cells from developing
the blood vessels needed to keep them alive, the researchers
explained.

In the trial, more than 700 patients with metastatic colon cancer were
randomly selected to receive regorafenib or placebo.

In addition, all patients received care to treat symptoms, but not to
change the course of the disease, the researchers noted.

Treatment included antibiotics to fight infections, painkillers and
corticosteroids.

The investigators found that patients taking regorafenib survived an
average of 6.4 months, compared with five months for those receiving a
placebo — an increase in survival of 29 percent.

In addition, 44 percent of the patients taking regorafenib responded to
the drug or had their cancer slowed, compared with 15 percent of the
patients receiving placebo, they reported.

Based on these findings, the trial was stopped in October so that all
patients could be offered the drug.

The trial was funded by the maker of regorafenib, Bayer HealthCare
Pharmaceuticals.

“The drug helped patients live longer,” said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld,
deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. “But you
have to keep in mind that these patients had advanced disease.”

And, the gains were modest, he added. “Patients who got the drug lived
about one month longer. Unfortunately, the difference between the groups
in the time it took for the disease to get worse was small — about six
days,” he said.

Lichtenfeld thinks that using the drug earlier in treatment might have
more impact. “But not every drug, when moved earlier in the course of the
disease, is necessarily proven to be effective,” he cautioned.

Grothey noted regorafenib is being tested in a phase 2 trial in
patients with earlier stage colorectal cancer, in hopes that the results
will be even more dramatic.

Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary
until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

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