Cancer Research at WVU Presented at Prestigious ASCO Conference     

MORGANTOWN, WV— New cancer research at West Virginia University’s Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center is garnering national attention.

Researchers in WVU’s Comprehensive Breast Cancer Program and the Brain Tumor Program were invited to present their separate findings at the June 2007 American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago.  The annual meeting draws nearly 30,000 attendees from across the globe to listen to education and scientific breakthroughs in the cancer world.

“Clinical cancer research allows us to see the most benefits for our patients,” Jame Abraham, M.D., medical director of the MBRCC Clinic, said.  “Our patient-driven approach to new research is at the heart of our multidisciplinary programs and we are delighted to share the work we are doing here at the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center.”

Ayman Saad, M.D., working under the mentorship of Dr. Abraham, recently received an ASCO Merit Award for evaluating tests to measure breast cancer progression.  He also presented research on existing studies of three separate tests that determine whether patients suffering from advanced breast cancer benefit from their current treatments.

The tests include a blood analysis and tumor marker, sophisticated image scans such as a PET/CT, and a relatively new procedure called circulating tumor cell testing (CTC).  Cancer doctors typically combine the tumor marker and PET/CT to assess patients’ responses.

“We found that neither CTC nor the tumor marker alone was sensitive enough to detect disease progression seen in the PET/CT scan,” Saad said.  “However, CTC can be useful in validating the results of combination testing.”

The research team believes that further studies are needed to determine the value in repeated CTC testing in follow-up care of advance breast cancer patients.

WVU researchers contributing to the study include:  Abraham; Aasim Sehbai, M.D., Hematology/Oncology; Gary Marano, M.D., Radiology; Gerald Hobbs, Community Medicine; and Somi Rikhye, M.D. and Abraham Kanate, M.D., of the School of Medicine.

Another WVU study highlighted at the ASCO meeting was a retrospective analysis of 84 patients treated at WVU for glioblastoma multiforme, a fast growing type of brain tumor.  Mridula Vinjamuri, M.D., under the mentorship of Edward Crowell, M.D., Professor Emeritus of Medicine, evaluated the effectiveness of a new drug for brain tumors.

Past treatments involved a combination of radiation and carmustine, or BCNU chemotherapy.  BCNU, no longer offered to patients, was once the standard treatment for GBM sufferers.   Current treatments use a newer chemotherapy drug, called temozolomide, or TMZ and radiation.

Vinjamuri compared the two treatment options to see which resulted in the higher success rate for patients.

“We found that the chemotherapies performed equally well,” Vinjamuri said.  “Both patient groups showed similar signs of cancer progression.  However, those who took the newer drug had longer survival rates.”   

Researchers say one probable reason the TMZ patients lived longer is due to new anticancer drugs they received as second and third line treatment options.  Those options were not available when BCNU was the standard treatment regimen.

Vinjamuri noted that further research is needed to compare the two chemotherapy drugs. 

“If patients can tolerate the side effects of BCNU, they could be given this therapy as a more affordable alternative to the pricey temozolomide therapy.”

WVU researchers contributing to Vinjamuri’s abstract include:  Crowell,  Ramin Altaha, M.D., and Rakesh Adumala, M.D., MPH, Hematology/Oncology; and Gerald Hobbs, Community Medicine,

For more information on the MBRCC visit www.wvucancer.org or call (304) 293-3711.

- WVU -

For more information:
Sherry Stoneking, MBR Cancer Center, 304-293-4599

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