Illawarra cancer patients have been the first in the world to trial a new chemotherapy drug that’s proving more effective – and less toxic – than those currently available.
The drug, Deflexifol, was designed in the laboratory at the University of Wollongong over a decade ago and had shown remarkable results in animal trials.
The first human – or phase I trial – finished in May and there’s been positive results for the 40 patients suffering mainly colorectal cancer but also breast and lung cancer.
The 40 patients – both public and privately insured – participated in the 18-month trial at the private facility, Southern Medical Day Care Centre in Wollongong.
One of Australia’s leading centres for clinical cancer trials, it’s headed by renowned Wollongong oncologist Professor Philip Clingan.
He was among the researchers to present the exciting findings at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual conference in Chicago this month.
‘’We are very excited by the results presented in our research. These show that there is the potential to increase the overall dose of the chemotherapy drug, whilst not increasing the side effects and toxicity,’’ Prof Clingan said.
‘’With the dosing density increase we believe that Deflexifol will prove to be a more efficacious and better tolerated drug for cancer patients, both improving the quality of life and increasing the expected survival of patients with metastatic disease.
‘’A reduction of adverse outcomes will help communities and individuals alike.’’
Prof Clingan said the drug would have remained on the shelf as a ‘’good but untested idea’’ without the generosity of the local community through donations and the assistance of the Illawarra Cancer Carers.
These donations helped fund the project spearheaded by a trio of UOW researchers – including professors Clingan, John Bremner and Marie Ranson.
They took a 50 year-old chemotherapy drug – called 5-FU – and along with local biotech company FivePhusion – reformulated it to solve common issues with its administration and its level of toxicity.
‘’With this phase I trial we’ve found the optimum dose of the drug in patients who have failed all prior treatment,’’ Prof Clingan said.
‘’We’ve seen good results in patients with colorectal cancer, and other cancers.
‘’For instance one lady had a massive tumour in her chest and was expected to die within three months – with the drug we’ve kept her tumour under control for over 12 months.’’
With the trial’s success, researchers are now looking to move forward with a larger group of patients in a statewide phase II study.