MCG cancer center tests drug to treat soft-tissue sarcomas

Cancer center tests drug for sarcomas

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Not many songwriters try to work “maxillectomy,” the surgical removal of the upper jaw, into a tune. But Charlie Lustman sings about the cancer that claimed most of his with a smile.

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Charlie Lustman sings to chemo therapy patient Clarence Collins and his wife, Florence, at the Georgia Health Sciences University Cancer Center. Lustman's visit was sponsored by ZIOPHARM, a pharmaceutical company that is testing a drug to treat soft tissue sarcomas.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Charlie Lustman sings to chemo therapy patient Clarence Collins and his wife, Florence, at the Georgia Health Sciences University Cancer Center. Lustman's visit was sponsored by ZIOPHARM, a pharmaceutical company that is testing a drug to treat soft tissue sarcomas.

Lustman, dressed all in white and lugging his “love guitar,” visited Medical College of Georgia Cancer Center on Wednesday to sing and entertain patients. His visit, and others he has made to cancer centers around the country, was sponsored by ZIOPHARM, a pharmaceutical company that is testing a drug to treat soft-tissue sarcomas.

Sarcomas are a widely divergent family of cancers that arise from stem cells and, like stem cells, can differentiate into a number of forms. Some attack the bone, like the kind Lustman had, while others attack connective tissues or muscle, said Dr. Sharad Ghamande, the director of GYN oncology and principal investigator of the clinical trial for the drug at the cancer center. Altogether, they account for about 1 percent of all cancers, but because they are so rare they don’t often attract big clinical trials from companies eager to create drugs to treat them, he said. Treatment is often radiation and surgery.

“But the problem starts when sarcomas come back and they metastasize,” Ghamande said. “Your treatment options are not good right now.”

The clinical trial is looking at a drug called palifosfamide, a derivative of an earlier sarcoma drug called ifosfamide. The earlier drug had serious toxic side effects, sometimes harming nerves or causing bleeding in the bladder, Ghamande said.

“As a consequence ifosfamide is a very hard drug to give and many elderly patients choose not to have it because of the toxicities, so it denies them treatment,” he said.

Lustman does not have fond memories of taking the drug, which made him worry about his kidneys and his hearing.

“That kicked my butt,” he said. “That was one of the most toxic ones I took.”

The new drug does not contain the elements that caused the previous toxicity, and there is some experimental evidence it works against cancer cells resistant to the old drug, Ghamande said.

Getting approval for the drug would help, “especially for people who are not surgical candidates,” he said.

And it would bring more attention to sarcoma, Lustman said, which he tries to do with his visits and his music.

Since a bump on his gum line was diagnosed as osteosarcoma in March 2006, most of his upper jaw was cut out and replaced by a prosthesis that allows him to sing and talk. A song he wrote about his experience sums it up this way:

“Oh man, it’s so surreal to me/This life that we’ve got/Because one day you are in control/Then suddenly, you’re not.”

ONGOING CLINICAL TRIAL

If you are interested in the clinical trial for a potential new drug to treat soft-tissue sarcomas, call (706) 721-5557.

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mgregory
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mgregory 09/28/11 - 11:41 pm
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I never read the newspaper or

I never read the newspaper or watch the news,but god must've been over my shoulder tonight! I was a clinical trial patient at M.D.Anderson cancer center in Houston,TX.in April 2003. I was first diagnosed in Sept.2002 with a soft tissue sarcoma known as "SYNOVIAL SARCOMA" located in my right forearm,after what was thought to be a benign cyst was removed here in Augusta,GA.& misdiagnosed by local pathologist!after the lump & pain returned only 2months after removal, i then requested further testing & referral for a second opinion.Emory university in Atlanta,GA. correctly diagnosed me with this extremely rare cancer that destroyed my life at the young age of 26... I would love to share my storey,along with the success of experimental surgery's & chemo/radiation treatment. thanks...

Vito45
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Vito45 09/29/11 - 12:07 am
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mgregory, I'm thankful you

mgregory, I'm thankful you are still with us to tell just a little bit of your story here.
I would like to use your post to remind people NEVER just take your Dr's word when your life is at stake. I've seen too many cases where death sentences were passed only for the patient to go elsewhere and receive successful treatment.

busymomof3
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busymomof3 09/29/11 - 12:20 pm
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Why is the Augusta Chronicle

Why is the Augusta Chronicle continuing to use the name MCG? There has been a name change...Georgia Health Sciences University.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 09/29/11 - 12:37 pm
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The university contains

The university contains several "colleges." MCG is one of the colleges within GaZoo.

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