JUN 08, 2017 9:00 AM PDT

Ovarian Cancer Drug Trial Delivers Astonishing Results


A trial designed to test the safety of an ovarian cancer drug actually showed some positively stunning results in shrinking the tumor in women. Half of the women in the trial showed reduced tumor size - a result which caught researchers by surprise, and which has prompted the swift move towards bigger clinical trials.

Image credit: pixabay.com

The drug is known in the study as ONX-0801, and will be known as BTG945 in later stages. Its mechanism of action for entering the cell is similar to that of folic acid. Once inside the cancer cells, the drug blocks a molecule called thymidylate synthase, which induces lethal damage to the cells’ DNA structure. The drug is expected to be effective against ovarian cancer because this type of cancer has an abnormally high level of folic acid receptors.

ONX-0801 was given to a small sample of women, just 15 participants, to test for safety in a Phase I trial, carried out by researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research, London.

During the course of the trial, researchers found an unusually high response rate in the participants. Half of the women, seven out of 15 ovarian cancer patients, showed significant reduction in their tumor size. And if the participants were categorized by presence of the folic acid receptor, the results are even more striking as it shows seven out of 10 participants responded well to the drug. Of note, some of the women had advanced ovarian cancer which did not respond to standard treatments.

"The results we have seen in this trial are very promising. It is rare to see such clear evidence of reproducible responses in these early stages of drug development,” said Dr. Udai Banerji, the study’s lead investigator.

"ONX-0801 is the latest in a long line of precision cancer medicines to have been discovered here at the ICR - 20 since 2005 alone. The drug works in a particularly clever way by mimicking the effects of folic acid to hit cancer cells selectively while leaving healthy tissue alone,” said Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of the ICR. "It looks a highly promising treatment with the potential to have huge benefits for women with ovarian cancer, and I'm very keen to see it progress to later-stage trials."

Alongside the tumor shrinkage, the team found that the drug did not carry side effects typical of chemotherapy treatments, such as hair loss, nerve damage, and infections. Researchers think this is due to the drug’s specificity for folic acid receptors.

“The beauty of this particular drug is that it is targeted to the cancer cell. This means there are fewer side-effects, making it a kinder treatment for ovarian cancer patients,” said Dr. Banerji. “It's early days of course, but I'm keen to see this treatment assessed in later-stage clinical trials as soon as possible. We have also developed tests to pick out the women who are likely to respond to the drug, making the treatment potentially more cost-effective, and ensuring other patients can receive alternative treatment."

Ovarian cancers have one of the highest mortality rates, ranking fifth in cancer deaths among women. Of the 22,000 new estimated cases of ovarian cancer this year, only 10-15 percent of patients will be successfully treated. Unfortunately, in the large percent of remaining patients, the cancer doesn’t respond to treatment, or will inevitably return with a vengeance.

Additional source: MNT, BBC

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JAN 07, 2020
JAN 07, 2020
"Good" T Cells Can Go "Bad," But in the Case of Cancer, That's A Good Thing
T cells may be able to reach their full potential in the fight against cancer with a little nudge. In 2010, scientists first observed CD4+ T cells transiti...
JAN 16, 2020
JAN 16, 2020
FLASH proton therapy: faster and more effective
A new technique called FLASH proposes a new type of radiation therapy. The technique is composed of an ultra-high dose rate of radiotherapy and uses electr...
JAN 22, 2020
JAN 22, 2020
How the VISTA molecule affects immune responses
A new study describes how a molecule named VISTA has been impeding immune responses in cancer therapies. By turning this molecule “off,” resear...
JAN 26, 2020
JAN 26, 2020
Tumor-Highlighting Technology--Lights up Cells!
At the 56th Annual Meeting of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons, researchers announced the groundbreaking technology that can help enhance the visualization...
FEB 12, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
FEB 12, 2020
Vapers Have Epigenetic Alterations Like Those Seen in Smokers
The activity of genes can be altered with chemical tags that get added to the genome, so-called epigenetic modifications....
FEB 19, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
FEB 19, 2020
Forget complicated scans - ovarian cancer can be detected in the blood
Results from clinical trials performed in Melbourne, Australia have revealed the diagnostic potential of a new test for ovarian cancer. Instead of using co...
Loading Comments...