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Italians want controversial cancer treatment made available

Italians have taken to the streets, demanding access to the controversial cancer treatment  

Government says more trials are needed

May 4, 1998
Web posted at: 8:47 p.m. EDT (0047 GMT)

From Rome Bureau Chief Gayle Young

ROME (CNN) -- A controversial drug treatment for cancer developed by an Italian physician has led to demands by cancer patients that the government make the treatment available.

Doctors say the Italian treatment is different from a new drug combination unveiled by U.S. researchers, although they say there may be some similarities.

The U.S. treatment, a combination of two anti-angiogenesis agents known as endostatin and angiostatin, has been used to eradicate tumors in mice. The drugs appear to work against all types of cancers in mice, including leukemia.

Dr. Luigi DeBella says his cocktail of hormones inhibits tumor growth  

The Italian treatment's creator, Dr. Luigi DeBella, says his cocktail of hormones inhibits tumor growth. Many Italians believe the treatment can cure cancer and some have taken to the streets to demonstrate for its release.

But Italian health officials are skeptical. They are testing the so-called DeBella cure through clinical trials and so far have no clear results.

"We need to verify scientific data when a new treatment is proposed," said Dr. Francesco Cognetti, an oncologist.

But cancer patients want the government to make the treatment available immediately and for free.

"Most people call because they have cancer and they are not responding to official medical treatment," said radio talk show host Ilario Digiovanbattista, who fields hundreds of calls on the subject. "This is their place of last resort."

Some cancer patients have been able to find the drugs they need to follow DeBella's treatment program.

But the government says it will not bow to pressure and allow the drugs to be prescribed unchecked. Trials are needed to make sure patients are receiving a valid treatment and not a false hope, health officials say.


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