Cancer researchers celebrate the “fantastic” results of early trials for a new treatment that demonstrated its ability to significantly shrink tumors in half of the patients suffering from an advanced form of ovarian cancer.
The new treatment is comprised of a revolutionary drug combination that works together to obstruct the signals cancer cells need to grow. This could potentially offer an effective treatment option for individuals with a specific type of ovarian cancer that doesn’t normally respond to chemotherapy or hormone therapy.
The two drugs are known as VS-6766 and defactinib. The phase one trial of the novel treatment was led by a team at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and was administered to patients with low-grade serious ovarian cancer.
According to experts, this type of cancer often develops at a younger age. Less than 13 percent of patients respond to chemotherapy and less than 14 percent respond to hormone therapy.
Out of the 24 patients evaluated in the first trial, 46 percent saw a significant shrinkage in their tumors because of the treatment. For patients with a specific mutation, the results were even better. This indicates that the tumor profiles can help identify which patients are more likely to benefit from the new treatment.
Participants in the trial, who were between ages 31 and 75, lived for an average of 23 months before their cancer progressed.
“Overcoming cancer’s ability to evolve resistance to treatment is a huge challenge for cancer research,” explained Professor Kristian Helin, the chief executive of the ICR. “This study has turned a deep understanding of how cancer fuels its growth and develops resistance into a highly targeted treatment for patients who currently have few treatment options.”
Impressively, the novel drug combination worked in patients who already received a MEK inhibitor—something that can cause tumors to shrink but often loses much of its effect as tumors develop resistance to treatment— before the study.
ICR Dr. Susana Banerjee, consultant medical oncologist and research lead at the Royal Marsden’s gynecology unit, said: “I am delighted that this drug combination has worked so well in a group of patients who are in urgent need of new treatments, including those who have previously been treated with a MEK inhibitor. We’re very hopeful that this could become the standard of care for women with low-grade serious ovarian cancer.”
The results from the early trials were presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology congress. The first trials were so successful that they have already begun the phase two trials.