Anti-brain cancer drug found to have major side effect

March 11th, 2008 - 11:18 am ICT by admin  

New York, March 11 (IANS) A promising anti-cancer drug that eliminated brain tumours in mice in a 2004 study is now suspected to cause permanent bone damage. The researcher who conducted both the studies has warned against using the drug to treat children’s cancers, at least till there is a more thorough understanding of possible risks.

The findings of the new study have been published in the latest issue of the journal Cancer Cell.

The drug HhAntag is a signal transduction inhibitor (STI), an agent that blocks signals along a biological pathway and causes medullablastoma, the most cancerous brain tumour found mostly in children.

Tom Curran of the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia said while it is not clear that the bone defects that had observed in mice would also occur in children, he advised pre-clinical testing before moving ahead to clinical trials.

In 2001, using genetic engineering, Curran bred mice to develop medulloblastoma. He then treated them with HhAntag, which had previously been developed by a biotech company for treating skin cancer in adults.

In 2004, at the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Curran reported highly promising results from mouse studies. At high doses, the drug caused the tumours to shrink and in some cases, disappear entirely. The treated mice also survived much longer than untreated mice, with no serious side effects.

However, when Curran’s group tested the agent on young mice in contrast to adult mice tested previously, they found an unpleasant surprise - serious impairments to developing bones.

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