Local News

UNC Research Giving Cancer Patients New Hope

Posted June 26, 2003

— Researchers at UNC have helped discover a drug just approved by the

Food and Drug Administration

could be a major breakthrough in treating >

multiple myeloma


Myeloma is one of the most common of blood-related cancers.

Plasma cells in bone marrow help fight infection. Myeloma occurs when those cells grow out of control and become cancerous. It is a tough cancer to treat. Even in remission, there is a good chance it will come back.

Mary Beasley was diagnosed with multiple myeloma four years ago.

"It went in remission for two and a half years," she said.

The second time around, myeloma is even harder to treat. That is why patients and doctors are excited about the drug Velcade.

"It's the first new drug in myeloma to be approved in the past 10 years," said Dr. Bob Orlowski.

Orlowski and researchers at UNC took part in clinical trials for Velcade. It is the first drug to directly target myeloma cells, killing cancer, but not healthy cells.

The study shows in many patients, the amount of cancer was cut in half. In 10 percent of patients, it was completely wiped out.

"These were patients who previously would not have had any treatment option," Orlowski said.

Beasley was part of that 10 percent.

"I have felt better on this than anything I've had," she said.

Beasley said she is glad she took part in the clinical trial -- not just for herself, but also for others struggling with myeloma.

More studies combining Velcade with other myeloma drugs are under way at UNC's Comprehensive Cancer Center. Side effects included fatigue and nausea. Beasley said it was a small price to pay.


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