Research into the efficacy of Thalidomide as a treatment for small cell lung cancer, which is backed by the Cancer Research Campaign (CRC), will be carried out on a total of 30 patients in London and Leeds, UK. Patients will receive one 100 mg tablet of the drug every night for two years alongside traditional chemotherapy.
Thalidomide seems to work by stabilising blood flow around tumours, thereby allowing better supply of the chemotherapy agents to the cancerous cells. It then goes on to prevent the growth of further blood vessels, halting tumour growth. The drug has recently been shown to be a highly effective treatment for multiple myeloma and Kaposi's sarcoma, as well as for HIV and rheumatoid arthritis and is an unlicensed indication for leprosy patients who are corticosteroid resistant.
Siow Ming Lee, one of the researchers, commented: "Existing treatments for small cell lung cancer remain unsatisfactory and clearly finding new ways to improve the treatment of this disease is vitally important."
The Thalidomide Society said that it would back any research into the drug's use, provided strict guidelines were observed. Research is also being carried out at Dundee University on the use of thalidomide for treating high and low-risk myelodysplasia