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Sea Sponge Drug Fights Breast Cancer

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Researchers tested a drug structurally similar to a product isolated from a sea sponge for its therapeutic effect against breast cancer and found it effective in killing cancer cells by attacking cell division, according to a new study. 

In the study, Eribulin was tested in 762 women whose breast cancer had returned after initial treatment or spread beyond the diseased breast.  There was no effective treatment for these patients.  

Dr. Christopher Twelves, of St. James's Institute of Oncology in Leeds, England and colleagues gave the new drug to two-thirds of the patients and an alternative treatment, or none, whatsoever,  to the remaining one third. 

The researchers found breast cancer patients who received eribulin lived over 13 months, compared to less than 11 months for the controls. 

Eribulin was associated with a range of side effects commonly seen in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy including fatigue, low white, blood cell counts, numbness and loss of hair among other things. 

Eisai Inc, the drug maker, was said to have received a promise of a quick review by the Food and Drug Administration.  There is no reporting of how costly the drug will be. 

The study results were released at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. 

Eribulin, a fully synthetic analogue of the marine sponge natural product halichondrin B, kills cancer cells by triggering apoptosis  of cancer cells, according to the wikipedia. 

The investigational anticancer drug, previously also known as E7389 has been studied as a third-line treatment of advanced breast cancer in patients who have already been treated with other drugs like anthracyclines, taxanes, and capecitabine. 

Breast cancer is diagnosed in 190,000 Americans each year and the disease kills about 40000 annually in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.

David Liu and editing by Rachel Stockton

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