Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office has opened the first trial of a new drug combination in patients with advanced solid tumours and in a subset of patients who have non-small cell lung cancer. This trial will combine two compounds that aim to starve the tumours while simultaneously blocking cancer cell growth.
The study will take place across three UK hospitals. The Churchill Hospital, Oxford is the lead centre. The trial of up to 48 patients will run in two stages. In the first stage patients with any solid tumour will each receive a drug called vandetanib and an investigational drug called selumetinib (AZD6244, ARRY142886). In the second stage patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) will receive the combination.
This is the first time the compounds have been trialled together. It is hoped that combining these treatments will increase the number of cancer ‘weakspots’ targeted at the same time.
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the UK. Survival rates for all types of lung cancer are still low. Fewer than 10 per cent of lung cancer patients will live for at least five years after diagnosis.
Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for around 85 per cent of all lung cancer cases. Around 30,000 people are diagnosed with this form of the disease each year in the UK.
Chief investigator, Dr Denis Talbot, consultant medical oncologist at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust and Cancer Research UK clinician at The University of Oxford, said: “Therapies for lung cancer often become ineffective because the disease becomes resistant to treatment, so we’re delighted to launch this trial to test a new approach that we hope will help people with this common disease.
“There is progress being made in the treatment of lung cancer but survival rates still remain low. This is because the majority of patients – up to two thirds – are diagnosed once the cancer has already spread to other organs when it’s more difficult to treat successfully.
“We hope that this new approach may eventually contribute to increased survival for lung cancer patients.”
The trial is funded, managed and sponsored by the charity’s Drug Development Office with the drugs provided by AstraZeneca. This trial will establish an appropriate dose and schedule of these drugs in combination and investigate how effective it is at treating patients.
Dr Nigel Blackburn, director of drug development at Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office, said: “There’s an urgent need to develop new drugs which may provide additional options for these patients. This important trial may bring new opportunities for future lung cancer patients by combining two treatments to tackle the disease simultaneously, providing a two-pronged treatment approach for this hard to treat disease.
“The launch of this first trial is exciting news and we’ll be watching the results with great interest.”
For more information on the trial, please visit www.cancerhelp.org.uk or call the Cancer Research UK cancer information nurses on 0808 800 4040.
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The trial will also run from The Christie, Manchester and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. Patients with advanced NSCLC who meet the eligibility criteria for the trial will be able to participate. NSCLC patients will not be a selective group based upon any specific mutation or biomarker.
This is the first time these drugs have been given together. Vandetanib and selumetinib have both been tested in clinical trials both on their own and also in combination with a wide range of other cancer treatments.
Vandetanib belongs to a class of drugs called tyrosine-kinase inhibitors which blocks multiple targets in the cell. It is the first single drug to target VEGFR, EGFR and RET. Both VEGF and EGF receptors are active in lung cancer. Blocking these targets prevents the development of new blood vessels and tumour growth.
Vandetanib has been approved by the European Commission for the treatment of aggressive and symptomatic medullary thyroid cancer in patients with unresectable locally advanced or metastatic disease.
****Selumetinib is a mitogen activated protein kinase (MEK) inhibitor. Selumetinib blocks a protein important for tumour cell growth and division.