Research Supported by Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation Discovers Mode of Action of Arsenic-Based Drugs in Destroying Cancer Cells

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Apr 16, 2007 - Arsenic, a naturally occurring element, has been used in therapeutic compounds for over 2,000 years, and even now remains a venerable constituent of the traditional Chinese pharmacopeia.

Today, due in measure to the efforts of investigators supported by grants from the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation's (SWCRF) "Institute Without Walls," an arsenic derivative is being utilized in therapy for the treatment of certain types of acute leukemia.

In an important new development that holds promise for wider use of arsenic for treatment of other forms of cancer, the January 3, 2007 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published the results of research describing a new mode of action of arsenite (a form of the metal arsenic) in the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL).

The research, conducted by Dr. Ethan Dmitrovsky, and his colleagues at Dartmouth Medical School, determined that arsenite selectively destroys APL cells. It was observed that arsenite causes a form of cell "suicide" in which digestive enzymes usually sequestered within the cancer cell are released into the cell at large.

Dr. Samuel Waxman, Founder and Scientific Director of SWCRF, notes "This discovery of a new mode of action of arsenic-based therapies establishes a new pathway that can lead to broader use of arsenic in developing therapies for treating other forms of cancer. It most certainly presents a new platform of knowledge that can stimulate new ideas that may ultimately increase the cure rate of APL to near 100%."

SWCRF provided grants supporting the research program led by Dr. Dmitrovsky, who is the Andrew G. Wallace Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology and Chairman, Pharmacology and Toxicology of Dartmouth Medical School, and also serves as Associate Scientific Director of SWCRF.

Arsenic and its derivatives are now part of the standard treatment for APL. Recent information indicates that the combination of the vitamin A derivative retinoic acid, arsenic and chemotherapy may cure over 90% of APL patients, which may result in extending the lives of an estimated 50,000 people a year.

About SWCRF

Now in its 32nd year, the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation (SWCRF) is a unique non-profit international organization dedicated to supporting focused concept-driven research to develop targeted cancer cell-specific therapies with minimal toxicity, such as differentiation therapy. Two drugs developed through Foundation-supported research, and now used worldwide, have proven the effectiveness of non-toxic differentiation in the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL).

Since its inception, SWCRF has trained and supported more than 170 scientists with research grants exceeding $60 million. Based in New York City at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, the Foundation funds highly collaborative basic, translational and clinical research groups throughout the United States, Canada, China, Europe and Israel. SWCRF grant applicants are established investigators who agree to collaborate with other SWCRF investigators on all research projects funded by the Foundation.

Functioning as an "Institute Without Walls" the Foundation currently enables the collaboration of accomplished scientists in 28 different world-renown cancer research centers around the world. SWCRF hosts international conferences that bring together differentiation therapy investigators in a major forum to share their findings with the scientific community. Foundation-supported projects are reviewed and evaluated annually by an independent external committee of eminent scientists.

The Foundation derives most of its support from individual contributions. For the third consecutive year, Charity Navigator has awarded SWCRF its coveted four-star rating, indicating that the Foundation operates in the most fiscally responsible way possible to utilize its resources to attain its goal of a world without cancer.

For more information, visit www.waxmancancer.org.

Contact

Broadford & Maloney Inc.
Martin Maloney, 203-661-2900
m.maloney@bmcorp.com
or
Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Institute
Merle Duskin Kailas, 212-241-1760
mkailas@waxmancancer.org

Posted: April 2007

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