New Drug May Help Men With Metastatic Cancer

A new drug, able to attack blood vessels within prostate cancer — but so focused on the cancer that it leaves nearby blood vessels in normal tissue unscathed — is about to begin clinical trials. The drug, named Tasquinimod, will be tested in a daily pill form, in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial in men with prostate cancer that has metastasized (spread to other areas beyond the prostate). Testing will begin in 2008 at several centers, including the Brady, under the direction of Roberto Pili, M.D., and Michael Carducci, M.D.

How Tasquinimod reached this point is a long story — featuring the tenacious, patient, and creative work of John Isaacs, Ph.D., professor of oncology and urology, who never gave up on this type of drug, which he has been studying for more than 15 years. “Developing a new drug is not easy,” he comments. “You’ve got to think of the long haul, and not allow yourself to become frustrated by short-term disappointments,” even if some of the roadblocks seem impassable. This journey started when Isaacs discovered that a chemical called linomide had the ability to block the development of tumor blood supply in animal models, and found that it profoundly inhibited the growth of prostate cancer.

Oral linomide entered clinical trials a decade ago, but it produced side effects that prevented its use in prostate cancer patients. Over the last five years, in a collaboration with Active Biotech Inc, a Swedish company, Isaacs and colleagues tested a series of chemical cousins of linomide, hoping to find a drug that produced the same good results without causing harm. Finally, a second-generation linomide compound, Tasquinimod, looked promising in animals, and proved safe in European tests of men with and without prostate cancer. “It’s taken a while, but we believe the results will be worth the wait,” says Isaacs.

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