$7 Anti-Fungal Drug Can Halve Chemo Needed
You have cancer and chemotherapy is required. Don’t you wish that the administration of these cytotoxic poisons could be kept to as low a dosage as possible to minimize both side-effects and costs, while not compromising on the desired outcome? Well, here’s some good news.
Scientists In Singapore have reported that chemotherapy concentration and costs for advanced breast cancer patients can be halved by incorporating the use of an anti-fungal drug, ketoconazole, which costs around Singapore $12 (about US$7). The drug, which is normally used to treat ordinary infections such as dandruff and athlete’s foot, complements chemotherapy treatment as it blocks an enzyme in the body from breaking down docetaxel, a drug used to treat breast, stomach, lung and prostate cancers.
Each cycle of docetaxel, given once every three weeks, can cost between S$1,800 – S$2,500. A typical course can involve four cycles. By pairing ketoconazole with docetaxel, researchers from the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore were able to lower the concentration level of the chemotherapy by 40%, thereby reducing costs as well as chemotherapy side effects, while still achieving the desired results.
The results of this clinical trial were published in the April 2010 Annals of oncology, the official journal of the European Society for Medical Oncology and the Japanese Society of Medical Oncology.
Principal investigator Lee Soo Chin and her colleagues conducted the trial between July 2005 and September 2006. The anti-fungal treatment was administered to 31 patients in advanced stages of breast cancer or with large tumors for three days before chemotherapy cycles started. 51 patients treated with the conventional method of 100mg to 140mg of docetaxel between April 2002 and July 2005 formed the control group.
One breast cancer patient who participated in the “cocktail” trial was 58-year old housewife Gladys Goh. In June 2006, she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and went through four cycles of the anti-fungal and chemotherapy drugs. “After the first cycle, my tumor was greatly reduced and after all four I was able to go for surgery to have it removed”, she said.
Said principal investigator Lee: “With this finding, this would make an expensive treatment like docetaxel more affordable”. She also said: “these two drugs are existing ones, so doctors can apply them to their patients suffering not only from breast cancer but also from stomach, lung and prostate cancers. But they have to be mindful their patients may be on other medication and our study here is on only two singular drugs.”
Yeah for lower cancer treatment costs and fewer side effects!