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Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2011 Jul;11(6):585-90.

Hepatocellular carcinoma detection by gallium scan and subsequent treatment by gallium maltolate: rationale and case study.

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  • 1Terrametrix, 285 Willow Rd., Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA.


Gallium is antiproliferative to many types of cancer, due primarily to its ability to act as a non-functional mimic of ferric iron (Fe(3+)). Because Fe(3+) is needed for ribonucleotide reductase activity--and thus DNA synthesis--gallium can inhibit DNA production and cell division. Diagnostic gallium scans have shown that hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is commonly avid for gallium. Furthermore, in vitro studies have found that gallium nitrate, and particularly gallium maltolate (GaM), have dose-dependent antiproliferative activity against HCC cell lines. Rationale thus exists to use GaM, an orally active compound that has been well tolerated in Phase I clinical trials, to treat patients whose HCC is gallium-avid in a gallium scan. Because gallium absorbed from orally administered GaM is bound predominately to serum transferrin, which travels to all tissues in the body, GaM has the potential to treat even distant metastases. A patient with advanced HCC (20 × 10 cm primary tumor, ascites around liver and spleen, resistant to Nexavar(®) (sorafenib)), whose cancer was highly gallium-avid in a (67)Ga-scan, was treated with oral gallium maltolate at 1500 mg/day q.d. After four weeks of treatment, the patient had a large reduction in pain, with greatly increased mobility and quality of life, and significantly lowered serum bilirubin and inflammation-related liver enzymes. At eight weeks, CT scans showed apparent necrosis of the tumor.

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