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Experimental Drug Could Help Cancer Patients with Radiation-induced Esophagitis, UPCI Researchers Find

MIAMI BEACH, Oct. 5, 2011  A drug under development at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine could protect against esophagitis induced by radiation treatment, a new study suggests.  Results of the study will be presented today at the American Society for Radiation Oncology annual meeting in Miami Beach.

The study, led by Joel Greenberger, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Pitt, suggests the drug, JP4-039, could offer patients protection from radiation-induced esophagitis, an inflammation of the esophagus that causes intense pain during eating and swallowing. This condition often weakens cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy because they eat significantly less as treatment progresses.

“In past studies, we’ve proven that JP4-039 offers human cells significant radioprotection,” Dr. Greenberger said. “This approach also was successful in animal models, and we hope to translate our work into a clinical trial in the near future.”

Patients with cancers of the lung are most likely to suffer from radiation-induced esophagitis. If their pain can be reduced or even eradicated, they could stand a better chance of completing their cancer treatments successfully.

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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