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Ecteinascidia turbinata (ET-743), show promise in the treatment of certain soft tissue sarcomas. (36th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology).

Soft-tissue sarcomas are characterized by the growth of cancer cells in the soft tissue of the body. Soft tissues include muscles, tendons, fibrous tissue, fat, blood or lymph vessels, nerves or the tissues around joints. Treatment for these soft-tissue sarcomas varies, depending on the specific type of cancer, the place in the body where the cancer started, and the extent of the disease. Treatment may include surgery to remove the cancer if possible, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. When this type of cancer develops in an arm or leg, amputation is sometimes needed, however, this is used as a last resort.

Ecteinascidia turbinata is a type of compound that is found in sea tunicates (sea squirts) that live in clusters in the Caribbean and Mediterranean seas. The ET-743 molecule acts by binding to the DNA of cancer cells, prohibiting cellular replication. Clinical trials involving other cancers have shown anti-cancer activity with the use of ET-743, but only recently have early clinical trials begun evaluating its use in the treatment of soft-tissue sarcomas.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute recently reported results from three separate clinical trials utilizing ET-743 in the treatment of patients with soft-tissue sarcomas. In the first two trials, almost 50% of patients with advanced soft-tissue sarcomas showed a partial disappearance or stabilization of their cancer following treatment with ET-743. Importantly, patients tolerated ET-743 very well, enabling them to receive multiple treatment cycles to control their disease. The third trial involved patients with gastrointestinal stromal tumor, a rare and difficult to treat sarcoma. Only 6% of these patients showed an anti-cancer response to ET-743.

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Results from the first two trials suggest that significant benefit can be derived from the use of ET-743 in persons with certain types of soft-tissue sarcoma. Patients with soft-tissue sarcoma may wish to speak with their physician about the risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial further evaluating ET-743 or other promising new treatments. (

Oncology Times, Vol 9, No 8, p. 25, 2000)

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