Radiation Could Be Less Damaging and More Effective with Trial Drug

An experimental drug has shown the ability to shield healthy tissue from radiation and enhance its ability to eradicate tumors. The study is published in Science Translational Medicine by UT Southwestern scientists. The pharmaceutical, named avasopasem manganese (AVA), has already been shown to prevent acute mucositis (a condition seen in head and neck cancer patients) in clinical trials. For the drug to become a routine part of clinical care, its ability to protect healthy – not only cancerous – cells from radiation needs to be tested.

Study leader Michael Story, Ph.D., professor of radiation oncology at UTSW and member of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Experimental Therapeutics Research Program, worked with colleagues to treat cancerous cells with AVA prior to exposing them to radiation. After drug treatment, the cancerous cells were not protected from radiation and appeared to respond more to the adiation than those who did not receive AVA. This was especially true when high radiation doses were administered.

In mice, cancerous cells were allowed to grow into tumors. Before radiation treatment, AVA was administered, and the tumors shrank after being treated. Some of the tumors disappeared completely. Several different tumor types (lung, pancreatic, neck, head) also experienced positive results in animal trials.

Story noted that AVA is currently being tested in phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trials. “With this drug, the radiation doses we deliver could be profoundly more effective, while at the same time contribute to protecting adjacent normal tissues,” Story said.

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