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According to the results of a recent clinical trial, neovastat may significantly prolong the survival time of patients with advanced renal cell (kidney) cancer that has stopped responding to standard therapies. As a result, future clinical trials will be conducted to further evaluate this novel compound and determine its utility in optimal treatment regimens for this group of patients.

The kidneys are a pair of bean shaped organs located on each side of the spine. The kidneys filter the blood and eliminate waste in the urine through a complex system of filtration tubules. All of the blood in the body passes through the kidneys approximately 20 times an hour. Renal cell cancer is an uncommon form of cancer that is most often characterized by the presence of cancer cells in the lining of the filtration tubules of the kidney. Advanced renal cell cancer refers to cancer that has spread outside the kidneys to distant locations in the body. The prognosis for patients with advanced renal cell cancer following standard therapy is poor.

Cancer cells require food, oxygen and growth proteins in order to grow and spread. These essential nutrients are transported to the cancer cells by blood vessels. Angiogenesis is the process of creating new blood vessels necessary to transport “food” to the cancer cells. Two key proteins that are necessary for the process of angiogenesis are called matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF causes endothelial cells (cells comprising the innermost layer of blood vessels) to replicate and migrate from existing blood vessels to the cancer. Endothelial cells secrete MMPs, which create an opening in existing tissues surrounding the cancer, allowing the endothelial cells to move near the cancer and form new blood vessels to “feed” the cancer.

Neovastat is a novel angiogenesis inhibitor made from shark cartilage that is still in clinical trials. Neovastat produces its anti-angiogenic effects through multiple mechanisms. It blocks both VEGF and MMPs, halting their action in facilitating the growth of new blood vessels necessary to promote cancer cell growth. Additionally, neovastat has been indicated in the direct death of endothelial cells.

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Results from the most recent clinical trial evaluating neovastat have recently been reported. All of the patients involved in this trial had advanced renal cell cancer that had stopped responding to standard therapies. Patients in this trial had an average overall survival of 16.3 months following treatment with neovastat. The average survival time for this group of patients with no further treatment is typically 8 months. The treatment was well-tolerated with minimal side effects.

These results suggest a doubling in survival time for patients receiving neovastat who have advanced renal cell cancer and who have exhausted all other options of standard therapy. This has prompted the initiation of the last phase of clinical trials to further evaluate neovastat and potentially bring neovastat to the clinical setting.

Patients with renal cell cancer may wish to speak with their physician about the risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial further evaluating neovastat or other promising new therapies.

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