Local oncologists are talking 'breakthrough' in the FDA approval of a new injectable drug to treat stomach and lower esophageal cancer, the gruesomely painful disease that kills nearly 11,000 people a year, and which claimed the life of Gov. Ann Richards, 1200 WOAI news reports.


  Dr. Steven Kalter of San Antonio's START Center for Cancer Care says current treatments are ineffective.


  "If they're not found early and they are not surgically treatable, than our treatment record for the disease is very poor," Dr. Kalter said.


  The drug, called Cyramza, is effective on all stomach and lower esophageal cancer patients, Dr. Kalter said.  He says current drugs on the market today are only available to certain patients.


  And he said this medication is what is called an 'inhibitor,' which blocks the formation of new blood vessels, which starves tumors by denying them the oxygen which is carried by the blood.  He says it is not a chemical drug, with all of the horrible side effects.


  "This new drug, Cyramza, is a biological agent so it gets away from the traditional side effects of chemotherapy," he said.  "It does not produce the hair loss, the nausea and vomiting."


  Oncologists agree that lower esophageal cancer is one of the most painful cancers to have.  In addition to being excruciatingly painful, it also prevents the patient from swallowing, leading to additional problems.


  And, Dr. Kalter, says while cases of stomach cancer are actually going down, there is a greater incidence of lower esophageal cancer than ever, something he says is to do our modern lifestyles.


  "High pace, eating dinner later at night, and having a greater incidence of reflux esophegitis, I think, is what is leading to more cases of esophageal carcinoma."


  He points out that the FDA granted Cyramza 'fast track' status due largely to its potential to 'make a significant improvement in safety or effectiveness in the treatment of a serious condition.'