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Clinical trial of new immunotherapy treatment meets first target

On Behalf of | Mar 11, 2022 | Mesothelioma/Asbestos-Related Illness

Researchers recently completed the first clinical trial of a new treatment for mesothelioma. They tested a drug more commonly used in breast cancer treatment to target some of the enzymes that help tumor cells grow and multiply. The trial was met with qualified success.

The researchers tried doses of abemaciclib on 26 mesothelioma patients. The drug is a cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitor. The researchers hoped it would slow tumor cell growth, and they found that it exceeded their target of 42% success.

After 12 weeks, the treatment showed a 54% success rate. By 24 weeks, the treatment led to tumor reductions in 80% of the patients.

How does abemaciclib work?

Abemaciclib, also known as Verzenio, is a highly targeted drug. As scientists have learned more about cancer and other diseases, they have started improving precision medicine treatments. These are treatments that move away from blanket approaches. Instead, doctors tailor these treatments to specific people or smaller groups of people, such as mesothelioma patients.

These precision medicine treatments have improved as scientists have learned more about how individual cancers grow in the body. That knowledge allows researchers to target specific parts of the process. As a CDK inhibitor, abemaciclib cuts into the tumor cell’s ability to transfer energy. In turn, that impedes the cell’s ability to grow or replicate.

Abemaciclib is more commonly used as a breast cancer treatment, but researchers suspected it might also work for mesothelioma. They noticed that mesothelioma patients often lacked the tumor suppressor p16ink4A. Abemaciclib targets the same enzymes as the natural tumor suppressor. So, researchers thought they would see if it could slow tumor growth.

There is still work to be done.

The first clinical trial exceeded its target effectiveness. However, there’s still much work to be done. For starters, the trial featured an extremely small sample size. Beyond that, the participants suffered a number of side effects, some of which were quite serious. One patient died of neutropenic sepsis.

At this point, the researchers are likely to advance their clinical trials to the next stage. As we have noted before, new treatments typically run through three stages of clinical trials before the FDA might approve them. Altogether, there are four stages of clinical trials, but the fourth comes after FDA approval.

The next stage of the abemaciclib trials would focus on the treatment’s effectiveness and safety.

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