UK researcher discovers drug that shows promise in treating rare cancer

September 05, 2000

New research published recently in the journal Thyroid shows that paclitaxel (Taxol®) has significant clinical activity against anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC). The research study was led by Kenneth B. Ain, M.D., associate professor, Division of Endocrinology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, and Medical Service at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lexington.

This study is an example of how treatments can be developed from basic research through clinical trials in patients entirely by faculty at the UK Chandler Medical Center and the VAMC in Lexington.

Paclitaxel is a compound that was isolated from the bark of the Pacific yew tree. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved paclitaxel to treat breast and ovarian cancer, non-small-cell lung cancer, and AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma.

ATC is a rare disease with no effective therapies. It is the most aggressive solid cancer and is always fatal, with a mean survival time after diagnosis of two to five months with treatment. ATC accounts for 1.6 percent of all thyroid cancers, and there are about 300 cases in the United States each year.

Ain created the thyroid cancer program at the UK Chandler Medical Center. Patients from around the world receive clinical care through the program.

The recently published study was a Phase II trial, or a clinical trial required for approval of a drug indication by the Food and Drug Administration that focuses on the effectiveness of a single drug. In the study, paclitaxel was infused continuously over 96 hours every three weeks for one to six treatments. Of the 19 evaluable patients, 53 percent showed a response to the drug, meaning their survival time increased. However, treatment with paclitaxel did not alter the mortality rate.

Ain's team currently is researching adding other drugs to paclitaxel in an effort to find more effective treatments for ATC.

University of Kentucky Medical Center

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