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    New Chemotherapy Agent Battles Recurrent Brain Cancer




              The Food and Drug Administration has given accelerated approval to the drug temozolomide (Temodarô) to treat adults with persistent recurrence of anaplastic astrocytoma, a type of brain cancer that strikes between 2,000 and 3,000 people each year in the United States alone.

    The "first line " drugs for these conditions continue to be nitrosourea/procarbazine protocol. In addition, surgery and radiation may also be done. In almost every case, the cancer will recur within one year of ending first-line chemotherapy.

    The new drug comes in capsules that can be taken at home. The usual regimen is five days of every 28-day cycle.

    In clinical trails of temozolomide, nine percent of the participants had a complete response (resolution of the tumor for two months). Thirteen percent had their tumor shrink by at least 50 percent at the two-month mark.

    The participant's response to the medication took an average of 50 weeks, and their response lasted approximately 64 weeks. At the 12-month mark, the median overall survival rate was 15.9 months. This means that half (81) of the participants survived beyond this time, and half (81) did not.

    People with anaplastic astrocytoma live an average of two to three years once the diagnosis has been made.

    The most serious adverse reaction was myelosuppression, suppression of the bone marrow where blood cells begin. This results in a lack of platelets and white blood cells.

    The most common side effects are those that regularly occur on chemotherapy agents: nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue, and constipation. However, only 10 percent of these cases develop into a severe form of these problems. Nausea was the most frequent complaint, affecting more than half the participants in the study. Nausea and vomiting were successfully controlled by the use of antiemetic medication.

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