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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Experimental Drug Could Protect Some Cancer Patients from Radiation Side Effects, UPCI Researchers Find

MIAMI BEACH, Oct. 3, 2011  A drug under development at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine could protect the cells of Fanconi anemia patients from damage caused by radiation treatment for head and neck cancers, 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, showed that the drug, JP4-039, offered radioprotection in human Fanconi anemia cell lines by “soaking up” the free radicals that kill human cells.

“Clinicians recently discovered that patients with Fanconi anemia are susceptible to head and neck cancers,” Dr. Greenberger said.  “However, they can’t receive the drugs and radiation therapy they need because their immune systems are incredibly sensitive to these treatments.  We tested JP4-039 in Fanconi anemia cell lines and found that the cells were protected from radiation-induced damage. Our next step is to move forward with testing in animal models.”

Fanconi anemia is a rare, inherited blood disorder that prevents the bone marrow from making enough new blood cells for the body to work normally.  Patients with Fanconi anemia have a higher rate of leukemia and other forms of cancer than people who don’t have it.

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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