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Clinical Trials Offering New Hope For Cancer Patients: June 25, 2011

An estimated 11-million people in this country are battling some form of cancer.

Finding new ways to create or control cancers is the ultimate goal of drug trials.

“Sort of the holy grail of cancer research is to come up with what are called targeted agents and that’s our big buzz word now in the new decade,” says Dr. Lowell Hart, a hematologist/oncologist with Lee Memorial Health System.

Targeted agents will try to hit the Achilles’ Heal of cancer, the pathways that control the growth of cancer. Successful drugs must inhibit growth with few side effects.

“I tell this to many of my patients even if we don’t have a cure for them now, we hope to be able to control the growth of the cancer for sometimes months and sometimes many years,” says Dr. Hart.

Dr. Hart is now conducting Phase 1 clinical trials at the Regional Cancer Center in Fort Myers. Probably the most important step in the development of new therapies, it includes the initial introduction of the drug in humans.

“We’re doing a new trial, with a new drug that looks quite promising in ovarian cancer where the women have had progression of their cancer after their standard chemotherapy.”

Other new trials include one for cancer that’s started in the liver and one for what are called head and neck cancers, says Dr. Hart.

Trials usually involve a small number of patients who exhausted standard treatment.

“For a patient who is still able to actively treat the cancer but has run out of options, someone who is you know maintaining their weight fairly well and has a reasonable quality of life then these are a very good option,” says Dr. Hart.

In the past, people would have to travel to an academic medical center to search for hope and a new type of treatment.