AVI BioPharma `Encouraged' by Study of Avicine Cancer Treatment By Karen Fessler
San Francisco, May 14 (Bloomberg) -- AVI BioPharma Inc. said it's ``encouraged'' by results of a study of its experimental cancer vaccine Avicine in patients with pancreatic cancer.
The therapy appears to be as effective in prolonging the lives of patients with pancreatic cancer as chemotherapy, but without the harmful side effects, the company said a study shows.
Avicine works by neutralizing the effects of a growth hormone and stimulating the immune system to recognize and attack malignant cells. It's one of many vaccines in development by drugmakers that could offer patients a new weapon in their fight against cancer.
``It's a huge improvement in therapy for pancreatic cancer patients if you can show a drug is good but not nearly as toxic as chemotherapy,'' said Denis Burger, chief executive of the company.
The study, from the second of three phases of testing generally required for U.S. approval, involved 55 patients whose pancreatic cancer had progressed to a point where it was untreatable by surgery. Patients received either the vaccine, or the vaccine combined with Eli Lilly & Co.'s Gemzar. Results showed that the vaccine alone was as good as the combination based on the median survival of patients, while Avicine alone showed it was safe and had no significant side effects.
The data was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in San Francisco.
About 16 of the 55 patients continue to live, which Burger said is an unexpectedly large number for a disease that has one of the worst prognoses.
Burger said the company may study Avicine in a larger trial that compares the vaccine alone to chemotherapy alone.
AVI BioPharma is already studying Avicine as a first-line treatment for colorectal cancer patients in the final of three stages of testing required for U.S. approval.