Australian researchers have claimed that a new drug is capable of prolonging the life span of the patients suffering from one of the deadly form of brain cancer. Researchers from the Melanoma Institute Australia, University of Sydney and Sydney’s Westmead Hospital said that the drug was first found with aim to shrink brain tumours in patients having advanced melanoma.
The drug Dabrafenib targets a particular gene mutation that is commonly found in almost half of all the melanoma cancers, said Dr Georgina Long. Although the gene drives proliferation of cancer cells, the drug manages to stop the process in its tracks.
Dr Long along with her colleague Prof Rick Kefford tested the drug on 46 melanoma patients and 22 non-melanoma patients. The 46 melanoma patients included 10 such patients whose cancer had metastasised and spread to their brain.
Patients with advanced melanoma spread across the brain were given a dreadful diagnosis and they could survive for just four months on an average. However, those under drug trial were alive even at five months. Out of the 10 patients under trial, the brain tumour in nine patients shrank with the first 6 weeks and it disappeared in four patients. Two of the patients could survive over a year, while one was alive till 19 months.
“That’s a huge leap forward for patients with tumours that have spread to the brain, particularly melanoma, because they are common,” Dr Long said. She further added saying, “For 40 years we have been working with drugs in advanced melanoma and nothing has improved survival, which is on average nine months from diagnosis of advanced melanoma.”
During the diagnosis, the brain cancer is found in almost a quarter of all the patients with advanced melanoma. On the other hand, the autopsies exhibit that nearly 70% of these patients have brain tumours.
Dr Long reported that half of the patients who had no tumours in the brain but in other body parts experienced shrinkage in their tumour by 30% or more. She also said that it was possible for the drug to treat other cancers too.
Funded by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, the study was initiated by Dr Long and her colleague Prof Kefford who demanded for the drugs to be tested on metastatic brain tumours’ patients with disease causing advanced melanoma. Dr Long also said that these patients are often excluded from clinical trials due to their very poor prognosis. The drug was also tested on a specific type of gene mutation and it did well. This specific type of gene mutation is commonly found in melanoma patients of Australia and other regions of the world having high ultraviolet (UV) rays exposure.