MIAMI (WTVJ/NBC) – Researchers have developed new drugs that go directly to cancer cells.
Cancer patient Robert Chambers received the last of six treatments Tuesday with an experimental drug therapy designed to target his bladder cancer, which had spread to his liver and lymph nodes.
His wife, Alice, says before enrolling in this clinical trial he was in a lot of pain.
"He was in the bed all the time, exhausted, and he was ready to let go. We were pretty close to the edge of saying it can't go on like this," she said.
In the pharmacy at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, they carefully mix the combination therapy designed by a Nobel Prize-wining researcher at the University of Miami.
AEZS 108 combines a traditional chemotherapy agent, adriamycin, with a synthetic version of a hormone produced by the brain.
It helps deliver the chemo right to the cancer cells, which are covered with receptors for that hormone.
That's why this is called targeted therapy.
"It's like a lock and key, and if you take a bomb and attach it to the key, you can deliver a bomb to the cancer cell. And that's how the stuff works," said Dr. Norman Block, UM researcher.
"That means that in theory the drug will internalize in the cancer cells not so much in the normal cells" said Dr. Gustavo Fernandez, Chambers' oncologist.
Chambers is the first patient here to try this experimental targeted therapy, and he's had promising results.
"I had a tumor that I could feel in my neck, and after two treatments I couldn't feel it anymore. After two treatments I was off the pain medications," he said.
In July, the Chambers were able to celebrate their 43rd anniversary.
"He's back to vacuuming the pool and cooking and all those good things," Alice Chambers said.
Doctors said his tumors are 70 percent smaller after four treatments. UM is one of only two sites in the country testing this new therapy.
"In California, one of our collaborators is using it for prostate cancer that's become resistant to normal chemicals, and it's working very well," Block said.
UM Sylvester researchers hope to try the new therapy on pancreatic and breast cancer.
They hope to start before the end of the year.
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