Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

Sylvester Researchers Present Findings on Arsenic Derivative at International Cancer Conference


Researchers from the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center are presenting their findings on a promising arsenic-based agent in a poster presentation at the 97th annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. Lawrence H. Boise, Ph.D., associate professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, and his team found that some multiple myeloma cell lines responded to a compound called ZIO-101 in the lab.

Dr. Boise, Kelvin P. Lee, M.D., professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and their colleagues at the UM Miller School of Medicine have extensive experience working with arsenic trioxide (ATO), which was FDA-approved in September 2000 for the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia. ATO has also shown promise against other leukemias and multiple myeloma. “We’ve had a longstanding interest in studying the mechanism, action and activity of arsenicals in multiple myeloma,” said Boise. “In fact, we’ve participated in a clinical trial, initiated at the UM Miller School by Dr. Kelvin Lee, based in part on some of our work with arsenic trioxide in multiple myeloma.”

ATO is an inorganic arsenical, or an arsenic compound that is not naturally occurring, but rather is chemically manufactured. It is generally believed that organic arsenicals, or arsenic-based compounds that occur naturally in living organisms, are less toxic. So researchers at the UM Miller School and Massachusetts-based ZIOPHARM Oncology Inc. are examining ZIO-101, an organic arsenical, to see if it is as effective as ATO but with less toxicity. ZIO-101 is being studied in phase I and phase II trials to treat multiple myeloma at several centers in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, including UM/Sylvester. “ZIOPHARM’s studies have shown that ZIO-101 has much less toxicity and so if you can have similar anti-tumor activity with less toxicity you can give more of the drug, improving your results,” said Boise.

Boise, Lee and their colleagues tested ZIO-101 on four different multiple myeloma cell lines, finding mixed results. For example, they have found that adding ascorbic acid to therapy with ATO made multiple myeloma more susceptible to the arsenic. But adding ascorbic acid to ZIO-101 did not improve performance. “So the ZIO-101 has a different mechanism or metabolism than arsenic trioxide,” said Boise. “What this means is patients who don’t respond well to arsenic trioxide may respond well to ZIO-101, and vice versa.” Claire Croutch, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Boise, will present the work in a research poster from 1 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 4, at the AACR meeting in Washington, D.C.

Croutch is one of many UM Miller School physicians and researchers participating in the 97th Annual AACR meeting. Joseph D. Rosenblatt, M.D., Associate Director for Clinical and Translational Research at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, chaired a panel on disparities in cancer outcomes; medical oncologist Khaled Tolba, M.D., had an oral presentation on immune response in cancer; and Niven Narain and Indushekhar Persaud, two research associates in the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, presented two posters on Coenzyme Q10 in melanoma and prostate cancer. To learn more, visit the AACR conference web site at

UM/Sylvester opened in 1992 to provide comprehensive cancer services and today serves as the hub for cancer-related research, diagnosis, and treatment at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. UM/Sylvester handles 1,400 inpatient admissions annually, performs 3,000 surgical procedures, and treats 3,000 new cancer patients. All UM/Sylvester physicians are on the faculty of the Miller School of Medicine, South Florida’s only academic medical center. In addition, UM/Sylvester physicians and scientists are engaged in 200 clinical trials and receive more than $31 million annually in research grants. UM/Sylvester at Deerfield Beach recently opened to better meet the needs of residents of Broward and Palm Beach Counties. This 10,000-square-foot facility at I-95 and S.W. 10th Street offers appointments with physicians from six cancer specialties, complementary therapies from the Courtelis Center, and education and outreach events.

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