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Building on basics

A fighting chance

"I knew my chances weren't good," said Blasucci, 49. "I wasn't responding well to conventional therapy. I talked to experts at cancer centers at other cancer centers about a bone marrow transplant, but doctors were afraid my body had become resistant to cancer drugs."

Blasucci is a consultant who helps pharmaceutical companies develop clinical trials - including cancer studies. He knew that potentially life-saving research was being performed at teaching hospitals and research institutions across the country. He wasn't about to give up. Blasucci went on an informational treasure hunt, talking to physicians and scouring the Internet.

That's how he found the Radiodiagnosis and Therapy Program at the UC Davis Cancer Center. The clinic, one of six such federally funded investigational programs in the United States, treats people with advanced lymphoma, prostate cancer and breast cancer using anticancer agents that combine monoclonal antibodies with radiation.

Antibodies are proteins produced by the lymphocytes of the immune system to fight off foreign invaders, also known as antigens. Monoclonal antibodies are bioengineered versions of these natural disease-fighters, but they're designed to lock onto the surface of specific cells - in this case, lymphoma cells.

In radioimmunotherapy, these antibodies are attached to radioactive particles called isotopes. When intravenously infused into a patient, these antibodies send cancer-killing radiation directly to the tumors, minimizing harm to neighboring tissue. Cancer cells get a steady, intensive dose of radiation over a long period of time, much longer than is possible using conventional (external beam) radiation.


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