Researcher Dr. Marcus J. Drake, from the University of Newcastle in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, told Reuters Health the evidence suggests that thalidomide may extend life by blocking growth factors that stimulate the development of blood vessels to "feed" tumours.
"We are hoping that for those very high-risk patients, we may be able to supplement other treatments.By giving them thalidomide, we can reduce growth factors," he
Few drugs in the history of medicine have aroused as much controversy or fear as thalidomide.Originally introduced in Britain in 1958 as a sedative, it was widely prescribed to pregnant women in Europe to treat morning sickness.But within a couple of years doctors began to hear reports of terrible deformities in newborns.The drug was withdrawn in 1961.
In recent years, however, thalidomide has emerged as a potential therapy for a range of diseases including cancers.One of the reasons is that the drug has powerful anti-angiogenic properties, slowing the development of new blood vessels that feed tumours.
For the new research, reported in the March 24th issue of the British Journal of Cancer
and colleagues recruited 20 men with progressive cancer who had failed to respond to hormone therapy.
Each was given a daily dose of thalidomide alongside continued hormone therapy.
Out of 16 men who stayed on the drug for at least two months, six experienced a drop in PSA levels of around 48 percent, with three of them seeing a decline of 50 percent or more.
However, patients did have side effects such as constipation, headache, nausea and weight gain.
The researchers conclude that thalidomide may be a useful treatment for some patients but needs close monitoring.