Merck drug shows promise in treating pelvic cancer
An anti-cancer pill developed by Merck & Co can fight tumors and is safe in combination with palliative radiotherapy for patients with advanced pelvic cancer. The drug, known as vorinostat and available in the United States as Zolinza is a new type of therapy called a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor.
It works by stopping tumor growth by altering the levels of several genes needed for cancer cells to grow. Vorinostat enhances the effect of palliative radiotherapy and may in future become an important part of long-term curative pelvic radiotherapy.
Palliative radiotherapy treatment is designed to treat tumors, relieve pain and prolong the life of patient who is unlikely to have the cancer cured. Curative radiotherapy destroys cancer cells and shrinks tumors before or after surgery.
The drug is generally well tolerated and has no serious side effects. Only symptoms such as nausea and fatigue are observed.
Most patients’ tumors had shrunk six weeks after completion of treatment and the researchers concluded that 300mg of vorinostat daily in combination with palliative radiotherapy for two weeks was the maximum tolerated dose.