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Monday, 14 May, 2001, 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK
Soil microbe drug fights cancer
chemotherapy
The chemotherapy has shown encouraging results
Early trials of a cancer drug made from an organism found in soil have shown promising results on patients with advanced cancer.

The new drug, called epothilone, helped some patients who had not responded to existing drug regimes.

Results from the trials in Newcastle and Glasgow, which aimed to test the safety of the drug, were announced at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in San Francisco.

In all, 42 patients, all with a variety of advanced cancers, were given treatment.

In just under half, some sort of improvement was noted, and in one case, the tumour shrunk by 50%.

One in ten of the patients found that their tumour shrank to some degree after they were given the drug.

Epothilone works by inhibiting the process by which cancer cells divide, thereby halting tumour growth.

Similar to Taxol

This is similar to the way the established cancer drug Taxol works - although the researchers believe that it might prove more effective than Taxol as cancer cells may have less resistance to it.

Professor Herbie Newell, from the Cancer Research Campaign Cancer Research Unit in Newcastle, told BBC News Online: "It's encouraging and it looks as though it could be an important advance.

"All the patients involved in this trial had cancers which had failed to respond to other treatments.

"We are now in discussions about further trials."

However, it is likely to take some five years before a full set of clinical trials can be completed and the drug - if proved effective - can be given on the NHS.

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See also:

16 Jun 00 | Health
Breast cancer drugs approved
11 Apr 00 | Health
Drug hope for cancer patients
17 Mar 00 | C-D
The politics of cancer
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