Cancer Proves Too Much For Experimental Rx

Pancreatic cancer experimental drug fails to meet its objectives

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

(RxWiki News) The theory was solid but, as is so often the case – unfortunately – the experimental drug just didn’t deliver. A phase II trial showed that a new type of chemotherapy wasn’t effective against pancreatic cancer.

In mid November, Clovis Oncology announced that a trial of its drug CO-101 failed to meet its objective of prolonging life.

CO-101 is a modified version of a commonly used chemotherapy drug called gemcitabine, which is sold under the brand name Gemzar.

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Earlier research has found that a protein known as hENT1 helps to deliver gemcitabine where it can kill the cancer cells. Scientists theorized that patients who had low levels of hENT1 would not respond well to gemcitabine. That’s why Clovis researchers developed a new, slightly altered form of the medication.

CO-101 was designed to treat pancreatic tumors that had low levels of hENT1. The agent was supposed to be able to compensate for low levels of the protein and be able to enter the tumor cells to destroy them. The goal of the trial was to see if CO-101 was better than gemcitabine at extending the lives of patients with metastatic (spreading) pancreatic cancer with low hENT1.

The trial produced two disappointing results: 1) overall survival was not different between the patients treated with CO-101 and those who received gemcitabine; and 2) low levels of hENT1 did not predict a patient’s response to gemcitabine.

Clovis will suspend development of CO-101 pending further data evaluation to focus on three other anticancer medications currently in its pipeline.

Gemcitabine is approved to treat a number of cancers, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer and lung cancer. It may also be used for other cancers as well.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 26, 2012
Last Updated:
November 27, 2012