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New drug for rare stomach cancer

1.57142857143
1.6 from 7 votes
Sunday, June 01, 2008

But a series of new cancer drugs has given him not one, but two new leases on life.

When he was diagnosed with gastrointestinal stromal tumour, there were no drugs to treat the disease.

So, Mr Kong endured surgery and "punishing" radiotherapy treatments that did not stop the cancer - which is notoriously resistant to conventional treatments - from spreading.

He first tried Glivec - initially used to treat a type of chronic leukemia - when it was approved in 2001, but his condition became resistant to the drug after four years.

When his first form of hope died, so did his will to live, said the father of two.

So when Sutent, a new pill that targets cancer cells, was offered to him as part of a clinical trial in 2005, Mr Kong hesitated for fear of side effects, which range from blisters to heart problems.

"For six months I refused," he said, preferring to "die peacefully".

But thanks to his doctor`s urging, Mr Kong, now 48, has had the last three years as an added blessing. His tumour has not grown since he started on Sutent, which is the second line of treatment after Glivec.

His physician Dr Foo Kian Fong, a senior consultant at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), said the Health Sciences Authority approved Sutent three months ago as an alternative for those allergic or resistant to Glivec.

The conditions of about half of his 19 patients who are on the drug are stabilising, while 22 per cent have seen their tumours shrank.

Like Glivec, Sutent stops cancer cell growth as well as inhibit blood vessels that feed the tumour from forming.

Studies are in progress to research Sutent`s effect on other cancers such as those affecting the colon, breast and lung.

The drug has also been approved to treat renal cell cancer, another stubborn cancer.

Dr Tay Miah Hiang, a consultant at NCCS, said: "It`s another new option to treat patients especially in a setting where there are no effective drugs available to further control the disease."

Pfizer, which developed Sutent, said some 30 pills, or a month`s worth, costs $8,000 to $10,000.

Even though the drug is not a cure, as it only shrinks or stops the cancer from spreading, it is enough for Mr Kong.

"I thank God each day, each day is a blessing," he said.

© 2007 MCN International Pte Ltd.

Author: By Sheralyn Tay
Source: Channel News Asia
1.57142857143
1.6 from 7 votes
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