More than 1 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer every year. Chemotherapy is the most common course of treatment but many patients say the side effects are almost as bad as the disease itself.
Researchers at the University of Miami are testing a cancer-fighting antibody that targets only damaged cells, and reduces toxic side effects.
Twenty-seven-year-old Anthony Sanchez was in the prime of his life when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, cancer of the lymph nodes.
"I was surprised but not worried it was going to be the end of me. Just worried how it was going to be taken care of," said Sanchez.
Doctors at the University of Miami are treating him with an experimental treatment called SGN-30. It targets only cancer cells with a specific marker called CD-30 and leaves healthy cells alone.
"Cells that normally don't contain this will just continue growing happily, whereas with chemotherapy, it's going to affect all the cells in the blood system. It's going to affect the hair system, the cells in the mouth, in the gut, and cause damage," said Oncologist Hugo Fernandez, M.D.
An early study showed the results doctors were hoping for: The drug shrank the tumors in patients whose cancer kept coming back after standard treatment. And it did it without the harmful effects of other treatments.
"This offers patient who have had chemotherapy, had high doses of therapy, even transplantation, another alternative to treat the disease," s Dr. Fernandez said.
"I'm lucky to feel no side effects basically, almost compared to when I see other people and see how it affects them. I consider myself lucky and blessed," said Sanchez.
He's not cured yet, but he's glad to have an easier alternative to keep his cancer in check.
In addition to Hodgkin's disease, SGN-30 is showing promise in all cancers that contain CD-30 cells, such as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) and multiple myeloma. Studies are ongoing to determine how long the benefits last. The drug could be widely available within a year and possibly used to treat other cancers in the future.
If you would like more information, please contact:
James Hanlon, Jr.
Nurse Specialist, Clinical Supervisor
University of Miami
Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
1475 NW 12th Ave.
Miami, FL 33136