Promising new cancer treatment acts like ‘Trojan horse’

Hummingbird developing antibody drug into clinical trials with cancer charity
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Researchers have discovered a new type of cancer drug they say asks as a ‘Trojan horse’ to get inside tumour cells.

Writing in The Lancet Oncology, researchers claim the drug has shown early promise in patients with six different cancer types.

In patients with advanced, drug-resistant cancers, over a quarter with cervical and bladder tumours, and nearly 15% with ovarian and lung tumours, responded to the new treatment.

The innovative new drug – called tisotumab vedotin (or TV for short) – releases a toxic substance to kill cancer cells from within.

The results have been so positive the drug has now moved forward to phase II trials in cervical cancer and will be tested in a range of additional solid tumour cancers.

A team at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust led a phase I/II global clinical trial of nearly 150 patients with a variety of cancer types who had stopped responding to standard treatments.

Funded by Genmab and Seattle Genetics, the study found that a significant minority of cancer patients responded to the drug, with their tumours either shrinking or stopping growing.

Researchers saw responses in 27% of patients with bladder cancer, 26.5% with cervical cancer, 14% ovarian cancer, 13% with oesophageal, 13% with non-small cell lung and 7% with endometrial cancer (although not in any men with prostate cancer).

Responses lasted an average of 5.7 months, and up to 9.5 months in some patients.

The main side effects reported from the study were nose bleeds, fatigue, nausea and eye problems – but halfway through the trial the researchers adjusted the protocol to reduce these eye-related effects.

TV is made up of a toxic drug attached to the tail end of an antibody. The antibody is designed to seek out a receptor called ‘tissue factor’ – present at high levels on the surface of many cancers cells and linked with worse survival. Binding to tissue factor draws the drug inside cancer cells, where it can kill them from within.

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