April 3, 2006

New drug ups survival in advanced colon cancer

By Megan Rauscher

WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) - Among patients with
colorectal cancer that has spread to other areas of the body
and who have not been helped by standard chemotherapy, a new
drug called panitumumab produces a highly significant
improvement in time without worsening of disease, according to
data released at the annual meeting of the American Association
for Cancer Research.

"Panitumumab is a new important treatment option for
patients with chemo-resistant colorectal cancer, and it can add
to the survival of these patients and their quality of life,"
researcher Dr. Marc Peeters from University Hospital Ghent in
Belgium said at a press briefing.

Panitumumab targets a growth factor receptor that is a key
player in cancer cell growth.

In the study of 463 highly pre-treated patients with
chemo-resistant colorectal cancer, those who were given
panitumumab plus best supportive care showed a 46 percent
decrease in the rate of tumor progression compared with
patients who received best supportive care only.

By the first scheduled assessment at week 8, significantly
more panitumumab-treated patients were alive without
progression (49 percent) than those receiving only supportive
care (30 percent). "A difference in the percentage of patients
alive favoring panitumumab continued through week 32," the
research team reported.

Commenting on the results, Dr. James L. Abbruzzese from
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston who was not involved in
the trial said one "distinguishing feature" of the trial was
that the effect of panitumumab was obvious "early on, where
patients on best supportive care alone were either failing or
dying very quickly."

Panitumumab was well tolerated with very few major adverse
events and no treatment-related deaths. The most common side
effect was skin rash seen in the majority of patients, but less
than 1 percent discontinued treatment because of this. Other
side effects included fatigue, nausea and diarrhea.

Last week, Amgen Inc., which is developing panitumumab with
Abgenix Inc., a biotechnology company it is in the process of
acquiring, announced it has applied for U.S. Food and Drug
Administration approval of the drug for colon cancer.