Southwest Oncology Group Testing New Chemotherapy Treatment

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Southwest Oncology Group, one of the largest clinical trial cooperative groups in the United States, is conducting a new trial whose aim is to further understand a specific chemotherapy regimen used to fight malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium, a soft tissue found around the lungs, abdomen and heart which encases organ systems and promotes their smooth function. Pleural mesothelioma refers to the cancer when it attacks the lining of the lungs, or the pleural mesothelium.

Mesothelioma is a terminal disease, and is caused almost exclusively by exposure to asbestos fibers. When asbestos fibers are accidentally inhaled or ingested, they travel through the victim’s body until they become lodged in the mesothelial tissues. Asbestos fibers trapped in the mesothelium cause a scarring reaction which can spur the growth of malignant tumors.

Cancers in the body spread through cell division, and often require the development of new blood vessels to supply the malformed tumor tissues and continue growth. Chemotherapy aims to inhibit certain enzyme actions that are required for these cells to divide, thus slowing or stopping the growth of the tumor.

Mesothelioma is commonly treated with a specific chemotherapy treatment made up of both pemetrexed and cisplatin. While this treatment has demonstrated enough efficacy to become a commonly accepted mesothelioma treatment route, in many cases its effects are disappointing or even negligible. The Southwest Oncology Group is currently testing the effect of adding a third chemotherapy treatment to the regimen, cediranib maleate. The new treatment made up of all three chemotherapy drugs is being tested in patients who have not been treated previously for malignant mesothelioma with either surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormonal therapy or any other form of treatment.

Cediranib maleate, which is also referred to as either AZD2171 or Recentin, is expected to stunt or stop the growth of new blood vessels which supply tumor growth with the nutrients necessary to grow and develop. This phase of the clinical trials, referred to as Phase I/II, is intended to study the side effects of the new treatment as well as discern the most effective dosage of the new additive.

Southwest Oncology Group is funded largely by the National Cancer Institute, and enrolls more than 6,000 cancer patients and healthy volunteers each year to study new drugs and treatment methods. Patients interested in participating in clinical trials of experimental drugs can contact the group for more details.

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