Cutting-edge cancer treatment tested in SA

New drug gives patients hope

Published On: Aug 08 2012 06:21:35 PM CDT   Updated On: Aug 08 2012 06:55:17 PM CDT

For the past six years, Irene Osunbar has been battling lung cancer, hoping one day, doctors will find the cure.

When she heard about a trial for a new immunotherapy drug being tested at the Cancer Therapy and Treatment Center in San Antonio, she jumped at the opportunity and became the first person ever to try it out.

"My hope is that with this new treatment, the cancer will be completely gone. (Or) at least if not gone, I'll have my life back -- or a semi-normal life back," said Osunbar.

The drug, called Bax 69, works by blocking a protein in the body, called the Microphage Migration Inhibitory Factor or MIF, which causes inflammation and an increase in cancer cells.

UT Medicine oncologist Dr. Deva Mahalingam said the drug boosts the body's immune system.

"Inflammation leads to cancer and if we can try to prevent some of this inflammatory responses we see typically around humans, we can try to prevent the cancer from progressing or, potentially, in the future, even prevent the development of cancers," said Mahalingham.

The drug is still in the initial trial phase. It's being tested on patients with all types of cancer to see which tumors respond best to the treatment.

"This drug is still in it's early days but we believe it could target a wide variety of tumors." said Mahalihgham

Osunbar has been receiving the treatment for five weeks.

She admits there's no way to tell if this will be a magic bullet but she said she feels good and hasn't had any side effects.

"The pain is almost completely gone," she said. "I'm not coughing like I used to and the best part is that I can play with my kids." 

Once doctors are confident with the drug, they'll go to Phase 2 of the trial, which would limit the treatment to patients with certain types of tumors.

Phase 3 would make it available across the county, after which it could become FDA-approved.

For a list of recent stories Eileen Gonzales has done, click here.