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New Drugs Attack Root Of Cancer

Unlike traditional chemotherapy, or radiation, the new drugs angiostatin and endostatin don't attack the tumor, but the blood that nourishes it.

Dr. James Pluda of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) says it is one of the most promising new fields of cancer research.

"It's like the roots of a plant. If a plant can't make new roots, it can't grow. The blood vessels into the tumor are like the roots of a growing plant or weed," said Dr. Pluda.

In order to make those 'roots', a tumor sends out chemicals that cause blood vessels to grow up and into it. That creates an abundant supply of nutrients, and the tumor grows wild. Angiostatin and endostatin block those signals, and the new blood vessels die. The tumor then shrinks, and in some cases, disappears.

The research is being led by Dr. Judah Folkman of Boston Children's Hospital, who makes it a policy not to appear on camera, but told us by telephone that the drugs have been 98 percent effective in mice.

"It works in a wide variety of tumors in mice, without side effects and the key finding is without drug resistance you can keep giving them, or stop and start," Dr. Folkman said.

The results with mice are so promising that the NCI is making angiostatin and endostatin a top priority.

Researchers hope to test drugs on humans soon.

"We are in collaborations now to make these proteins, hoping by the end of this calendar year or early in the next year, we will have angiostatin and endostatin in a form that they can begin being tested in human clinical trials." said researcher Dr. Richard Klausner.

While everyone involved is enthusiastic, they are urging caution because history has shown, that while cancer can be easily treated in mice, what works in mice doesn't necessarily work in humans.