Drug combination trial sees exciting results

19 December, 2018

The results of an early clinical trial, which combined a new targeted cancer drug with chemotherapy, have shown promise for patients with advanced ovarian or lung cancer.

The trial, involving both ovarian and lung cancer patients, found that the combination of targeted drug vistusertib and paclitaxel chemotherapy caused tumours in over half of patients with ovarian cancer, and over a third with lung cancer, to shrink. It also stopped patients' cancers growing for nearly six months. The results of the study, which was led by researchers at the ICR and The Royal Marsden along with teams at nine centres across the UK, far exceeded what is normally expected in patients with advanced disease undergoing standard treatment that is failing. The study was so successful that a Phase II trial began while the Phase I trial was still recruiting.

Reserachers at the ICR previously observed that chemotherapy-resistant ovarian cancer cells have high levels of a molecule called p-S6K, which enables the cells to grow quickly and may help them withstand the effects of chemotherapy. Vistusertib works by targeting those proteins that 'turn on' p-S6K, preventing cancer cells from using p-S6K to grow and resist chemotherapy.

The study, which was published in the Annals of Oncology, was funded by AstraZeneca, with support from the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at The Royal Marsden and the ICR, and the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC).

Study leader Professor Udai Banerji, Deputy Director of the Drug Development Unit at the ICR 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. The results we saw were very exicting. We collaborated with multiple ECMC sites and delivered the study in record time, so it could seamlessly move into a randomised Phase II trial. This is a testament to all the high-quality research infrastructure in our ECMC and NIHR centres, along with the commitment of our patients in the UK."