HMS Researchers Use New Technique To Cure Cancer in Mice

A group of Harvard researchers at Boston Children's Hospital say they have cured cancer in mice by applying new methodology to a standard cancer treatment--chemotherapy.

In the April 1 issue of the journal Cancer Research, Dr. Timothy M. Browder, an oncologist and Harvard instructor in pediatrics at the Children's Hospital, and a group of his colleagues presented data from a five-year study which sought to examine the effect of targeting a tumor's blood supply rather than the tumor directly.

The data give statistical support to a long-suspected theory that cutting off a tumor's blood supply may shrink it. The article reports that when lower doses of traditional chemotherapy drugs were given more frequently to inhibit blood cell growth--known as angiogenesis--in test mice, 100 percent of drug-sensitive tumors were cured.


In mice whose cancer had become resistant to traditional chemotherapy schedules, the new treatment regimen was three times as effective as the standard regimen in suppressing tumor growth. The standard regimen entails higher doses of chemotherapy drugs, administered less frequently.

"The bottom line is that it's old drugs, new logic," said Harvard Medical School's Andrus Professor of Pediatric Surgery M. Judah Folkman, who heads the laboratory where the study was conducted.

The study also examined the effect of combining the traditional chemotherapy drugs with an experimental drug that attacks the tumor's blood supply. According to the report, 84 percent of mice with tumors that were unresponsive to traditional chemotherapy drugs were cured when the standard chemotherapy drug was combined with a low dose of an angiogenesis inhibitor.

The inhibitor, TNP-470, doesn't attack the tumor itself but instead targets the blood vessels.

Because the tumors in question had been unresponsive to the traditional chemotherapy treatment, Folkman said, the study lends support to the theory that it is possible to halt and reverse cancer growth in mice with a "flanking maneuver"--targeting blood cells surrounding the tumor but not the tumor itself.

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