Strategy Helps Tailor Head, Neck Cancer Treatment

Blood protein identifies those who'll benefit from specific drugs

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TUESDAY, Aug. 30, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have discovered a way to determine which head and neck cancer patients would benefit from additional drug treatment during radiation therapy.

Some tumors that have low concentrations of oxygen, or hypoxia, are resistant to radiation therapy, explain researchers from Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark. A drug called nimorazole can help in treating these tumors, but up to now there's been no way to identify people who would benefit from the drug.

Reporting in this week's Lancet Oncology, the Danish team studied whether patients' reaction to nimorazole could be predicted by measuring their blood for osteopontin, a protein associated with tumors lacking oxygen.

They found that patients with high concentrations of the protein who received a placebo did poorly compared with patients who received the drug.

"This finding might help to identify patients who will benefit from treatment with a hypoxia modifiers such as nimorazole during radiotherapy," lead researcher Jens Overgaard said in a prepared statement. "By contrast, use of nimorazole was not effective in patients with low or intermediate plasma concentrations of osteopontin."

More information

The National Institutes of Health has more about head and neck cancer.

SOURCES: Lancet Oncology, news release, Aug. 29, 2005

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