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Stimuvax® is a cancer drug under development for treating certain types of cancer, particularly lung and breast cancer. While not a cure for cancer, it is a vaccine that is designed to increase the life expectancy of cancer patients. As of early 2012 the drug was in phase 3 trials and was being tested on patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and those with advanced breast cancer.
Although referred to as a cancer vaccine, Stimuvax® does not actually prevent cancer; instead it is used as a treatment for those who are already ill, potentially increasing a patient's life expectancy. During a phase 2 study, life expectancy increased from 13.3 months to 30.6 months. A specific antigen, referred to as either Mucin 1 or MUC1, is present with many cancers, including lung, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer. In patients with these cancers, Stimuvax® can increase life expectancy by stimulating the immune system to search for and destroy these antigens; on the other hand, if Mucin 1 is not present, the drug has very little effect. The side effects that were reported include gastrointestinal disturbances, flu-like symptoms, and injection site irritations.
In 2010, most Stimuvax® trials focused on treating the most common type of lung cancer, NSCLC, which accounts for 85 to 90 percent of all cases. NSCLC differs from small cell lung cancer in that it attacks different types of cells. Additionally, small cell lung cancer is typically associated with smoking, whereas smokers and non smokers alike can be affected by NSCLC.
As of early 2012, this new drug was undergoing two different phase three tests: Stimulating Targeted Antigenic Responses to NSCLC (START) and Stimuvax® Trial In Asian NSCLC Patients: Stimulating Immune Response (INSPIRE). The START trial is gathering information concerning whether targeted antigenic responses caused by Stimuvax® will increase life expectancy in patients with stage three NSCLC.
INSPIRE has the same goals and procedures as START. The one difference is the ethnicity of the participants. Whereas START concerns all patients with advanced NSCLC, the INSPIRE drug trial specifically targets Asian patients. Both studies will compare patients on Stimuvax® with those taking a placebo.
Additionally, a phase three study called Stimulating Immune Response In Advanced Breast Cancer (STRIDE) investigates the effect of Stimuvax® on patients with advanced and inoperable breast cancer. STRIDE involves over 900 women in approximately 30 countries. It was initiated in June, 2009, and was still underway in early 2012.
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