Drug From Sea Squirt Treats Rare Sarcoma

Tumors either disappeared or shrank in half of patients, study found

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FRIDAY, June 22, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- A drug derived from the sea squirt showed anti-tumor activity in more than half of 51 patients with a type of cancer called advanced pretreated myxoid liposarcomas.

This soft-tissue tumor is a subtype of the liposarcoma group of cancers associated with specific chromosomal mutations.

A team of international researchers reviewed data on patients who received the drug trabectedin (ecteinascidinin-743) as part of a compassionate-use program.

They found that tumors disappeared completely in two of the patients who received the drug, while the longest diameter of tumors shrank by at least 30 percent in 24 other patients.

Previous studies of the drug showed response rates not higher than 20 percent.

Of the 26 patients who showed a response, 23 underwent radiological review of their tumors. Of those 23, 17 showed reduced tumor density prior to tumor shrinkage or disappearance, the study said.

At six months, the progression-free survival rate was 88 percent, and median progression-free survival was 14 months.

The study is published in the July issue of The Lancet Oncology journal.

"If the results of this analysis are reproduced in ongoing prospective studies, myxoid sarcoma would represent a uniquely sensitive subgroup to trabectedin treatment in the heterogeneous family of soft-tissue sarcoma," the study authors wrote.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about soft tissue sarcomas.

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, June 20, 2007

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