Chemotherapy Agent Derived From Sea Sponge Shows Promise

According to a story from, a recent study demonstrated that a chemotherapy agent that originates from a sea sponge was able to prolong the lives of women with metastatic breast cancer by two and half months. This drug is called eribulin, and while two and a half months may not seems like a long time, it is rare for therapies to be effective in advanced breast cancer that has begun to spread.

About Metastatic Breast Cancer

Breast cancer itself is not a rare disease, but it is rare for breast cancer to metastasize, or spread to other areas of the body. There are about 150,000 people in the US that have metastatic breast cancer. This is because that, generally, breast cancer is detected fairly early on in most cases and treatments are effective enough for survival rates to be quite high, at least in the developed world. In the US, for example, the five year survival rate is 85 percent. Risk factors include obesity, alcohol consumption, tobacco smoking, radiation, exposure to certain chemicals, certain genetic variants (such as BRCA mutations), and hormonal birth control. Breast cancer can spread to a variety of sites, such as bones, lungs, brain, liver, and nearby lymph nodes. Symptoms vary depending on the site of the metastases. Metastatic breast cancer is often lethal and cannot be cured. Click here to learn more about metastatic breast cancer.

About The Study

The research study involved a total of 750 women with the disease. Eribulin was compared alongside whatever treatment option that the patient’s physician had previously given them, as there is no set standard treatment approach for metastatic breast cancer. Overall, median survival was 13 months for eribulin users and 10.7 months for the other group of patients.

While more research will be necessary, the data suggests that eribulin could be a useful new therapy in a disease that has limited treatment options and is currently impossible to cure. The data is particularly encouraging considering the large sample size. Eribulin is a unique chemotherapy that targets the cell division mechanism used by the cancer cells. The drug has been in use for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer already, but only after a patient has undergone two earlier rounds of chemo; the new data suggests that it could be a first line treatment instead.


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