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New Therapy Treatment for Thyroid Cancer

Update Date: Jun 03, 2013 03:52 PM EDT

A new drug therapy treatment could be effective in treating people afflicted with thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is usually treated with surgery or radioactive iodine and 90 percent of patients respond well to these options according to William Li, director of the Angiogenesis Foundation. The other 10 percent, however, have very little to no treatment alternatives for advanced thyroid cancer. This 10 percent now might have another solution that could treat their condition. According to a study, a drug called Nexavar, generic name Sorafenib, was effective in shrinking tumor and slowing down the progression of the cancer.

The study recruited 417 patients who did not respond to surgery or radioactive iodine treatment. Some of the participants were given Nexavar, while the remaining group acted as the control and were given sugar pills, otherwise known as placebos. The researchers discovered that the drug shrank the tumor in 12 percent of the patients, which is a large percentage in comparison to the barely one percent in the placebo group. The researchers also found that the drug helped maintain the cancer for 11 months whereas the cancer was kept in check for only six months in the placebo group.

The researchers noted that Nexavar is not a cure and does not necessarily extend a patient's lifespan. The drug can provide a longer period of comfort. However, there are side effects from Nexavar, which include hand-foot-skin reaction, rash, hair loss, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and high blood pressure.

"If they can have a 12-month period without going to the hospital and undergoing more operations, that would be very meaningful," Marcia Brose, the study's author, said. Brose is an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Although this drug treatment could potentially help thyroid cancer patients, the researchers stated that Nexavar is expensive. It could cost $96,000 a year, which might or might be covered by insurance companies. Nexavar, which is manufactured by Bayer Healthcare and Onyx Pharmaceuticals, is currently used to treat kidney and liver tumors.

The study's findings were presented in the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, IL. 

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