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Yew needles join the cancer battle.

Taxotere, a drug derived from the needles of the European yew tree, has shown promise in fighting cancer.

Richard Pazdur of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and his colleagues studied the safety of taxotere by giving varying amounts of the drug to 39 cancer patients. The 39 participants had a variety of malignancies, including ovarian, colon, breast, and uterine tumors, and had failed to benefit from previous cancer treatment.

Pazdur's team discovered that at very high doses of taxotere, cancer patients suffered hair loss, mouth sores, and a low white blood cell count.

Although not designed to assess taxotere's efficacy, the study found the drug had antitumor effects in six of the 10 women who had ovarian cancer. The team also reported a positive response in one woman with breast cancer.

Although the study is small, the results appear encouraging. "It is highly unusual to have this level of activity in a Phase I study since most of these patients had been heavily treated and their cancer was still progressing," Pazdur says.

The findings are of particular importance because the European yew tree is not scarce. Another drug, taxol, has also shown promise in fighting cancer. But taxol - approved last week by the Food and Drug Administration for treating advanced ovarian cancer - is derived from the bark of the rare Pacific yew, whose use some feared might endanger the tree's survival.
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Title Annotation:taxotere drug derived from European yew tree shows promise in battling cancer
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jan 9, 1993
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