Rx Combo Delivers Fatal Blow to Rare Thyroid Cancer

Anaplastic thyroid cancer appears to respond to combination of Votrient and Taxol

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The most common types of thyroid cancer are fairly easy to live with. Anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) isn’t one of them, though. Early research shows a combination of anti-cancer meds may be beneficial.

A recent preclinical study demonstrated that combining Votrient (pazopanib) and Taxol (paclitaxel) is effective in treating ATC in cells, mice and in one patient. The combination was more potent than either drug given alone.

"Talk to your doctor about combination drug therapies."

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota were directed by oncologist, Keith Bible, MD, PhD. Their study was designed to see if and how the two drugs could work together.

ATC is a rare but aggressive cancer that strikes about 1,150 men and women, mostly in their 60s and 70s. It accounts for about 2 percent of the 56,500 cases of thyroid cancer diagnosed in this country every year.

The cancer grows so quickly that lifespan after diagnosis is generally only a matter of months. ATC doesn’t typically respond to any therapy.

The two drugs being studied are currently used to treat other cancers. Pazopanib is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat kidney cancer. Paclitaxel is a commonly used chemotherapy drug that treats a number of cancers including breast, lung, ovarian, head and neck cancers and advanced cases of Kaposi's sarcoma, a soft tissue cancer.

Researchers testing the drug combination in the lab found that human ATC cells were killed by the regimen. Tumors implanted in mice were reduced by 50 percent or more.

The pilot study involving a human patient found the two drugs shrank the tumor significantly – a result that lasted for more than 6 months.

“This was a highly unexpected finding for this type of aggressive tumor, which often can double in size in a matter of days,” Dr. Bible said in a statement.

The scientists learned that the two drugs go after a protein called Aurora A, which is involved in cell division. High levels of this protein are also seen in other cancers.

“This finding suggests that the combination may also be useful in treating other cancers, such as breast cancer, in which aurora A is sometimes found to be present in elevated amounts, as it is in ATC,” Dr. Bible said.

An ongoing trial is looking at the effect of this drug combination when used with radiotherapy to treat ATC.

This work was published in the January issue of Science Translational Medicine. The study was funded by National Institutes of Health grants and the State of Florida Department of Health Bankhead-Coley Cancer Program.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 9, 2013
Last Updated:
January 11, 2013