Chemical Derived from Naturally-Occurring Mold May Slow Growth of Metastatic Kidney Cancer by Inhibiting Growth of Tumor Blood Supply

University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center
Last Modified: May 19, 1998

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Anti-angiogenesis agents are showing promise in inhibiting tumor growth by attacking the tumor's blood supply. In this Phase II study of 33 patients, researchers used an anti-angiogenesis agent called TNP-470, a synthetic form of a chemical secreted by the aspergillus fumigatus mold, to slow the growth of metastatic kidney cancer, which claims the lives or approximately 11,500 people in the US each year. The agent inhibits the growth of endothelial cells, which build blood vessels, and is intended to prevent further tumor growth, rather than act as a cure.

Of the 20 patients in this early phase study, five have experienced no spread of the cancer for at least sixteen weeks. Major toxicities included two patients with central nervous system toxicity (confusion and cerebellar signs), one patient with fatigue, and one death from massive GI hemorrhage in a patient with a prior history of hemoptysis. However, the researchers conclude that the side effects are mild overall and the high incidence of apparently prolonged progression-free survival is encouraging.

The chemical was discovered accidentally by Harvard researchers in the early 1990's when the mold contaminated an experiment. The researchers observed that it had a powerful effect on blood vessel growth, and the agent was pursued for further research.

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