The latest mesothelioma drug to be granted a clinical trial is tazemetostat, a protein inhibitor which has already shown positive signs in treating non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
It’s been described using a ‘lock and key metaphor’ by Dr Marianna Koczywas, a thoracic oncologist from the US who says: “You have a specific [cancer] key, and a specific keyhole it goes through. If you can lock that keyhole, you can lock it out.
“These malignant cells rely on a pathway for growth and division so you try and block that specific pathway.”
The drug is currently being tested in a phase II trial at centres here in the UK as well as in France and the US.
Dr Koczywas said: “We’re opening this trial because we believe it is promising. We still have very limited options for patients with mesothelioma and welcome any therapy with potential to benefit the patients, prolong life and provide better quality of life. We think this drug can do that.”
How effective is it?
The drug has already been successfully used in the treatment of other diseases, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, synovial sarcoma and some genetically defined tumours, all of which use a similar pathway to tumour cell proliferation.
Studies have previously shown that 60% of mesothelioma cases show a mutation of BAP1, a tumour suppressor gene which tazemetostat has effectiveness for with other cancers.
Research has shown that those who lack the BAP1 protein are much more likely to develop mesothelioma, but this drug could give them a better chance of survival when used in conjunction with other forms of therapy.
Koczywas continued: “Having this type of personalized and targeted therapy for patients is the way of the future.
“You will see a higher response rate and a longer benefit by designing very specific, targeted therapies. We can select patients better today.”
The drug is produced by a biopharmaceutical company by the name of Epizyme Inc.
Their president and CEO Robert Bazemore has suggested that the drug could even be used to treat other types of cancer.
He said: “We believe that tazemetostat has the potential to treat multiple types of cancer in patients who have limited treatment options.
“We are moving quickly to expand the tazemetostat clinical program into mesothelioma.”
Tazemetostat is currently being promoted as a second-line therapy, for those who have already undergone chemotherapy but have relapsed, and would be used in combination with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
The trial is expected to run until September of 2018, and can hopefully offer mesothelioma patients a new form of treatment in the future.
Dr Koczywas concluded by saying: “Cancer types that rely on this pathway seem to be responding to the drug.
“This therapy should be appealing to patients who have very few options. Participating in clinical trials is crucial to advancing cancer treatment in general, and maybe moving us closer to a cure.”
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