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New drug shows promise in treating cancer

Cancer Drug

June 10, 1996
Web posted at: 11:35 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Dan Rutz

AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) -- Less than an hour after receiving chemotherapy, David Broyles, can take to the trails outside Austin, Texas on his mountain bike. The rides are a way of releasing stress, Broyles said, one not open to most cancer patients.

bike rider

But Broyles' treatment leaves him feeling strong and energetic, and the bike rides are almost like an extension of the therapy.

"I just feel that the better physical shape I'm in the better equipped I'm going to be to fight the disease," he said.

Broyles' affliction is mesothelioma, a cancer of the inner lining of the chest and abdomen. He found out he had it after routine hernia surgery.

The hernia "was a blessing in one way because it allowed us to pick (the cancer) up," says Dr. John Costanzi of Lone Star Oncology Consultants, one of Broyles' physicians. "Although it was extensive, at least we picked it up earlier than we would have."

treatment

The find also allowed Costanzi to test a new treatment, a drug called onconase, for some of the most life-threatening forms of cancer, including pancreatic and mesothelioma, which Costanzi says slowly kills the vital organs it surrounds.

None of the standard drugs have been shown to prolong life for victims of these cancers. But onconase may change that. In about one of three patients treated thus far, the drug appears to stop the tumor from spreading, shrink it, or even eliminate it altogether.

The Broyles

Onconase works slowly, but is far less toxic than standard cancer drugs. There is none of the hair loss, anemia, or nausea normally associated with chemotherapy.

Costanzi says the patients who react positively to onconase live longer and have a higher quality of life.

Since his diagnosis nine months ago, Broyles has received more than 30 weekly treatments with onconase. Aside from some minor swelling of extremities -- mostly early in the treatment -- he has had no complaints.

His last two CAT scans show no more cancer -- a promising sign for a tumor that often kills in less than a year.

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