By Jaclyn Cosgrove
Copyright © 2013, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
After years of research, scientists in Oklahoma City are partnering with an Oklahoma cancer center to begin the first phase of clinical trials to treat an aggressive type of brain tumor.
Scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation have developed the experimental treatment after several years of researching how to treat glioblastomas, a type of brain cancer that kills many of the people who develop it.
Starting this month, doctors at the Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center at the University of Oklahoma will collaborate with OMRF to begin Phase I of a clinical trial for the treatment.
Dr. Scott McMeekin, who is in charge of clinical trials at the cancer center, said this is the first time the cancer center has partnered with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.
“The amount of work that it has taken to get to this point is huge,” he said. “People don’t recognize how much has gone into studying and identifying all of it. It looks like ‘Oh, you’re just starting,’ but we’re at a midway point, and there has been a huge amount of work. This kind of homegrown agent that’s being identified and developed by a local researcher is clearly something that’s very exciting for Oklahoma.”
Dr. Rheal Towner, a scientist at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, is one of the researchers who developed the experimental treatment for the cancer.
Glioblastomas are the most aggressive type of primary brain tumors, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Towner said there isn’t a cure for glioblastomas, and there aren’t many treatment options for the people who develop them. The tumors are known to develop rapidly, with people who develop glioblastomas living an average of 15 months.
Towner said the treatment for glioblastomas involves compounds known as nitrones. Through Towner and fellow OMRF researcher Robert Floyd’s work, the researchers found nitrones can be effective in reducing cancer tumors in rats and mice.
“Through the years, we found that these compounds have an effect on inflammation, reducing inflammation particularly associated with cancers,” he said. “Since I’ve been studying these compounds, we’ve found that they actually reduce any new tumor cell growth in mice and rats, and also they reduce any new tumor blood vessels that are formed.”
They also found that nitrones also can induce the breakdown of the cancer cells in mice. Meanwhile, the researchers found that these compounds have no effect on the normal cells around the cancer cells, he said.
During the first phase of the clinical trials, doctors will determine what amount of the experimental drug is safe in patients. Once they determine the dosage level, they’ll expand the trial to include more patients to get a better assessment of the drug.
The cost of the trials is just over $1 million, according to OMRF. The research foundation was allowed to use experimental and safety data obtained when the compound was previously tested in people who had suffered strokes, so the FDA approved the compound’s testing in glioblastoma patients.
OMRF President Dr. Stephen Prescott said the foundation has never conducted a clinical trial of its own.
“With the Stephenson Cancer Center’s strength in clinical trials, this offered a unique opportunity,” he said. “By teaming up with OU, OMRF can bring a novel therapy to Oklahoma cancer patients in profound need.”
To find out more about the clinical trial, including the eligibility criteria for participation, call the Stephenson Cancer Center toll free at (855) 750-CARE (2273).