New treatment offered for thyroid cancer

April 23, 2010 Tim Eimer is a father of two. He's also an outdoor enthusiast, a science teacher and a cancer patient living on borrowed time.

"I started praying that I would have 15 more years," Eimer told Ivanhoe. "Fifteen years would get me through their childhood."

A lump on Eimer's neck was diagnosed as thyroid cancer. When caught early, most patients are treated successful with surgery and radioactive iodine. But for one in four patients, it doesn't work. Many, like Eimer, are given about three years to live.

Marcia Brose, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of otorhinolaryngology at Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Penn., is leading a study on a drug called sorafenib. It's part of a class of drugs geared to stop the spread or actually shrink tumors. In early studies, it benefited 62 percent of the patients.

"This wasn't a subtle signal that this molecule was working in thyroid cancer," Dr. Brose told Ivanhoe. "It was a homerun."

After taking the drug for two months, Eimer's tumors shrank by one-third. He knows it may not save his life, but it may extend it by years.

"This drug has given me an opportunity," Eimer said. "It's really been a blessing. It may enable me to meet that goal and raise my boys."

The drug sorafenib has already received FDA approval for use in patients with an advanced type of kidney cancer and one form of liver cancer. Dr. Brose says patients may experience some uncomfortable side effects like skin blistering, nausea and weight loss, but for most, the effects subside after a few months.

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