- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 15, 2005

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — New experimental cancer drugs are like a repairman who brings his toolbox to a job instead of just his wrench: They attack the multiple methods tumors use to grow and spread, instead of only one.

One of Pfizer’s new multitasking drugs shrank tumors in 40 percent of people with advanced kidney cancer, doctors reported at a meeting this weekend of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Current treatments do that in only about 1 out of 10 cases.

Some patients have been on the experimental drug for more than a year — far longer than they’d been expected to live.

Kurt Bonham is one. The California accountant was 49 when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer that already had spread to his lungs.

“I’d been given my death sentence,” he said.

Now, 13 large masses in his lungs have been reduced to specks.

“If I can have five more years, I think that they can come up with something fandangled that will either cure the cancer or manage it,” Mr. Bonham said.

Doctors hope the new generation of cancer drugs will do just that by blocking cancer’s multiple pathways, such as cutting off the blood supply to a tumor or jamming the “switchboard” it uses to send messages to grow and spread.

The Pfizer drug, so new that it’s called AG-013736 for now, attacks blood supply and one of the switchboard’s main lines. Another Pfizer drug, Sutent, also takes this approach.

Amgen, AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly have multitasking drugs in early stages of development. So does Novartis Pharmaceuticals, but its drug, called PTK/ZK, was disappointing in a study involving people with advanced colon cancer, doctors reported Friday.

Furthest along of all such drugs is Sorafenib, made by Bayer Pharmaceuticals and Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc., which the Food and Drug Administration already allows limited use of in certain kidney-cancer patients.

“Just in the last year or so, there are many more options. None of them are FDA-approved yet. Hopefully, soon they will be,” said Dr. Brian Rini, a University of California at San Francisco researcher.

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