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Sleep Drug Appears To Help Brain Cancer Patients - Study

Posted on: 06/04/2006

Sleep Drug Appears To Help Brain Cancer Patients - Study

Dow Jones - Jun. 04, 2006

By Jennifer Corbett Dooren


  ATLANTA (Dow Jones)--A drug currently on the market to treat sleep disorders appears to boost cognitive functioning, mood and improve fatigue among some brain cancer patients, according to a small study released Sunday.

The study of the drug, Provigil made by Cephalon Inc. (CEPH) was presented Sunday at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, a large gathering of top cancer researchers and experts.

The study, led by researchers the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine Neuro Oncology program, looked at 30 adults who had a primary diagnosis of brain cancer.

Before the drug was started the patients underwent a series of tests that measured fatigue, mood and cognitive functioning. It's common for brain cancer patients to have declines in memory, speech and to experience fatigue.

Patients were then given Provigil and measured at eight, 10 and 12 weeks. They were given a battery of tests that measured improvements in cognitive functioning, mood and fatigue.

One of the researchers, Thomas Kaleita, said patients experienced clinically and statistically meaningful improvements in cognitive function, mood and fatigue.

He explained that he was most surprised to find a big improvement in the number of patients who were depressed at the start of the study who were later shown to have measurable improvements in their moods. Researchers expected to find an improvement in fatigue symptoms as the drug is designed to treat sleep disorders including excessive daytime sleepiness.

Provigil doesn't treat the cancer, but studies of the drug are part of a broader effort by cancer doctors to look at therapies that can improve underlying symptoms of fatigue and depression in patients diagnosed with cancer and undergoing treatment for cancer.

Patrica Ganz, a cancer researcher and health services professor at UCLA, said doctors want to find drug and behavioral interventions that can help improve the quality of life of cancer patients along with treating the cancer itself.

An estimated 18,000 cases of brain and central nervous system cancers are diagnosed each year in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.

Kaleita said he would like to study Provigil in children with brain tumors to see if the drug can help them.

-By Jennifer Corbett Dooren, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9294;

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 04, 2006 13:38 ET (17:38 GMT)

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