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A combination of therapies could be the key to improving cancer wellness. This is according to researchers at Mayo Clinic in Florida, whose phase I clinical trial, published in the April 16 online issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, have shown promising results in treating anaplastic thyroid cancer.
Anaplastic thyroid cancer is not one of the most talked about of all the cancers, but it’s one of the ones that seriously put your wellbeing at risk. If you’re diagnosed with this cancer, your life expectancy will be measured in weeks to a few months, and very few patients survive. According to the American Thyroid Association, approximately 600 patients are diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer each year throughout the United States, but the cancer still accounts for 50% of all deaths from all types of thyroid cancer.
However, the collaborative study of 15 patients has found that participants tolerated a combination of paclitaxel chemotherapy and an experimental agent known as efatutazone, and it was safe for them to do so. The experimental agent is also being studied as part of a combination therapy in other cancer trials, specifically for colon and lung cancers. The study’s lead investigator, Robert Smallridge, MD, an endocrinologist who treats patients with thyroid cancer, commented, ‘This is good news, because we did not reach a maximum tolerated dose, meaning that the drug is well tolerated.’
Smallridge added that the study has only really demonstrated ‘a trend toward clinical benefit.’ Of the 15 patients involved in the study, most of whom were at the most advanced metastatic stage, one had a partial response. This means they had a reduction in the size of tumours by more than 30% percent. Furthermore, seven patients experienced short-term stable disease, or, in other words, a period when the tumours did not grow.
Dr Smallridge explained, ‘To see a partial response is very rare in anaplastic thyroid cancer’ and so any hint of progress in treating this deadly cancer is heartening. He concluded, ‘We are encouraged that this drug combination showed biologic activity in this deadly disease and feel that additional testing with this and other new agents will be helpful in trying to improve outlook and outcome for patients.’