A brain cancer drug first tested at San Antonio's START Center for Cancer Care has shown promise in treating a particularly nasty form of brain cancer, and now has been 'fast tracked' by the Food and Drug Administration, Newsradio 1200 WOAI's Berit Mason reports.

  The drug overcomes the natural inclination of the brain to protect itself against outside compounds entering its cells, which Dr. Lisa Fichtel with START says is a big drawback to using drugs to treat brain cancer.

  "This new drug status allows us to work on this new drug which is targeted specifically for brain cancer," Dr. Fichtel said.

  START Clinical Director Dr. Anthony Tolcher said this particular form of brain cancer, 'recurrent glioblastoma multiforme,' which is uniformly fatal, has limited treatment options.

  "This is great news for brain cancer patients, for the doctors who treat them, and for START," Dr. Tolcher said.  "The fact that this compound was able to be elevated to Orphan Drug Status is another example of the exceptional quality of research being conducted at START leading the way for these kinds of new treatments."

  Dr. Fichtel says this is a true breakthrough.

  "We have very few treatments that are approved for this, and that is actually another part of this 'orphan drug' definition, is that it is given for cancers that have very few treatments available."

  She says this designation will 'expedite' the availability of the drug, which is currently called 'ABT-414' to patients who need it.

  The problem with many efforts in drug development, Tolcher said, is that there is less financial incentive to develop drugs to help people with relatively rare cancers.  That why the 'Orphan Drug' program fast tracks drugs which are designed to treat disorders and diseases affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the country, and it has resulted in medical breakthroughs that might not otherwise have been achieved due to the lower chances of return on the huge investment companies make in producing and testing new cancer drugs.