Cancer drug shows promise in trial

FOR three years after being diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2012, she dreaded seeing the disappointment on her oncologist's face each time her scan results were told to her.

But the 65-year-old retiree, who wanted to be known only as Madam Theng, is hopeful now.

In February, she was put on a new oral drug being tested at the Developmental Therapeutics Unit of the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS) called Selinexor.

And already she has shown improvements, said Dr David Tan, principal investigator of the study and consultant at the Department of Haematology- Oncology, Developmental Therapeutics Unit of NCIS.

Like Madam Theng, other patients on the drug have also shown positive results.

More than half of them with advanced or metastatic cancers have seen their tumours either shrink or grow more slowly.

Of the 19 patients evaluated for response, 14 have shown encouraging results.

Two patients have shown partial response (more than 30 per cent shrinkage in their tumours), while 12 patients have displayed stable disease (tumour shrinkage of less than 30 per cent or tumour growth of less than 20 per cent).

The results shown are significant, said Dr Tan.

Heartened by the results, the clinical trial is being expanded.

An additional 60 patients will be tested within a year's time.

"The side effects are tolerable," said Madam Theng, who suffers slight headaches, fatigue and bitterness in her taste buds.

She is eyeing a US holiday when she is better.

wderek@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2015, with the headline 'Cancer drug shows promise in trial'. Print Edition | Subscribe