Drug Slows Mesothelioma Tumor Growth

Mesothelioma in some patients can be weakened by new drug

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Mesothelioma is a life-threatening disease that is often caused by inhaling asbestos dust and fibers. This cancer, which attacks the lining of many internal organs, may be stopped by a new drug.

Compared to some diseases, mesothelioma has a long period before it shows any symptoms. The median life expectancy for patients is 6 to 18 months, according to the American Thoracic Society.

While there is no cure, a new preliminary study shows that a new drug may help prevent the spread of the disease in some patients.

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Jean-Charles Soria, MD, professor of Medicine and Medical Oncology at South Paris University and head of early drug development at the Institut Gustave Roussy in Paris, worked with colleagues at nine centers around France to test a new agent for fighting mesothelioma.

The drug is currently named GSK2256098 and it helps limit the activity of an enzyme in these cancer cells called focal adhesion kinase (FAK). When the activity of FAK is increased, mesothelioma cells become invasive and spread. By taking this drug, FAK activity is suppressed and cell invasion decreases.

Scientists tested the drug on 29 patients. They took the drug by mouth twice a day. Doses ranged from 300 to 1500 milligrams. Overall, patients had an average of 17 weeks before the disease progressed. The drug was especially effective in patients lacking an active tumor suppressor gene called NF2. This gene produces a protein called merlin. When NF2 and merlin activity are restored, FAK activity goes down and cancer cells stop spreading.

Patients in whom merlin had been inactivated had the best response. The average time before the disease progressed in these patients was 24 weeks. For patients with active merlin and those in whom the activity of merlin was unknown, the disease progressed in 11 weeks.

Dr. Soria told dailyRx News, “Mesothelioma patients are in urgent need of therapeutic innovation. We hope that FAK inhibition may help patients with NF2 loss, but this is yet preliminary.”

"The findings show that merlin is a potential biomarker in mesothelioma that may enable us to identify a subset of patients who could benefit from GSK2256098 and have longer, progression-free survival,” added Dr. Soria. “Mesothelioma is a deadly disease, and the identification of novel and effective therapies is needed."

Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are considered the most common types of mesothelioma treatment.

The researchers plan to confirm these findings by analyzing more data gathered through larger clinical trials. Loss of NF2 and merlin is common to other cancers such as melanoma and meningioma. Investigators want to explore if their findings are relevant to other cancers.

The study was presented in November at the 24th European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer-National Cancer Institute-American Association for Cancer Research Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in Dublin, Ireland.

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Review Date: 
November 26, 2012
Last Updated:
March 18, 2013