'Exciting' cancer drug combination shrinks tumours and stops growth where other treatments failed, early trial suggests

Chemotherapy cocktail could mean months longer life for people with advanced cancers

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Wednesday 22 August 2018 08:27
The 5 most common types of cancer in the UK

An ”exciting” new cancer drug combination appears to shrink tumours and halt their growth for months, according to an early-stage clinical trial which could mean months of extra lfie for patients.

UK researchers have hailed the promising results from giving two chemotherapy drugs, vistusertib and paclitaxel, in tandem for late stage cancers which have become resistant to conventional treatments.

Though tests are in their early stages and set up to test safety rather than survival, the trial found over half of patients with ovarian cancer and 35 per cent of those with lung cancer saw their cancers shrink by at least a third.

The team, led by the Institute of Cancer Research in London and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, also found the cocktail stopped tumours growing for an average of 5.8 months.

They tested the drug combination on 25 women with high-grade serous ovarian cancer and 40 patients with squamous non-small cell lung cancer.

All those involved in the study, which was published in Annals of Oncology journal had advanced cancers and for each patient standard treatment had failed.

Professor Udai Banerji, deputy director of the drug development unit at the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden, said: “We combined chemotherapy with a targeted drug which blocks the way cancer cells react to treatment in order to survive.

“What we saw was very exciting. Over half the women with ovarian cancer and over a third of lung cancer patients saw their tumours shrink – and these are patients who had exhausted all other options.”

The researchers developed the drug combination after noticing that ovarian cancer cells resistant to chemotherapy have high levels of a molecule called p-S6K, which may help them to grow quickly.

Vistusertib targets two proteins which activate p-S6K. The scientists believe combining the drug with paclitaxel chemotherapy stops the cancer cells from being able to use the molecule to grow.

Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, said: “It’s wonderful that the study has given many of the women and men enrolled in the trial many months extra to spend with their loved ones, where previously they had run out of all treatment options.

“I eagerly await the results from larger trials of this drug combination.”

Around 140 women with relapsed ovarian cancer have been recruited for the Phase II trial, with results on the effectiveness of the combination compared to chemotherapy alone expected next year.

Additional reporting by Press Asssociation

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