New cancer drug being tested in Scottsdale

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The newest weapon in the fight against cancer is being tested right here in Arizona.

The new drug was just approved for clinical trials and now the doctors at Scottsdale Healthcare will begin testing it on people for the first time.

Every year 500,000 people fall victim to the types of cancer this drug can fight – colon, breast, ovarian, just to name a few.

The drug is called TKM-PLK1. The name sure isn't flashy, but the drug has doctors excited.

Researchers are optimistic about this drug because of a synthetic compound that allows it to break through the barrier on the targeted cancer cells.

"This uses new technology called siRNA," Dr. Ramesh Ramanathan said. "This is an engineered molecule similar to what's found in the cancer cell's machinery."

Early lab results have been promising. The drug prevents the tumor from completing cell division.

"If it slows down the cancer cell and if it starves it of essential nutrients, the cancer cell will die," Ramanathan said.

The Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare is one of just three centers across the United States that will now enroll up to 52 patients in clinical trials.

"It looks promising and we are excited but, again, a note of caution, it's a clinical trial," Ramanathan said. "This is the first time this drug is being used in patients so we'd like to see how it goes in the next couple of months."

They are now entering Phase 1. If they get to Phase 2, that will involve around 100 patients. Phase 3 will include thousands. Clinical trials take a minimum of five to six years to complete.