Patients with advanced ovarian or lung cancer could benefit from a new drug combination that might give them more months of life, researchers say.
They tested the therapy on 25 women with high-grade serous ovarian cancer and 40 patients with squamous non-small cell lung cancer.
The participants had tumours that had spread around their body – and all other treatments had failed.
The new treatment stalled cancer growth and even made some tumours shrink.
Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital, who carried out the work along with teams at nine other centres across the UK, had previously found that ovarian cancer cells used a molecule called p-S6K to grow rapidly.
So, they decided to test the effects of a new drug, vistusertib, which blocks the activation of p-S6K. And it was given along with an existing chemotherapy medicine, paclitaxel.
This early trial was designed to find out if the drug combination was safe to give to patients and in what dose and whether it worked on their tumours. More studies in more patients are needed to determine if this improves survival.
Lead researcher Prof Udai Banerji said: “What we saw was very exciting. Over half the women with ovarian cancer and over a third of lung cancer patients saw their tumours shrink – and these are patients who had exhausted all other options.”
The treatment stopped cancer cells growing for an average of 5.8 months.
Annwen Jones, chief executive from Target Ovarian Cancer, said: “There are unfortunately very few treatment options left for women whose cancer has developed resistance to standard chemotherapy.
“The findings from this highly innovative combination therapy, if borne out by further research, would represent a landmark breakthrough in ovarian cancer treatment, giving hope and precious extra time to women and their families.”
The research, published in the journal Annals of Oncology, was funded by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at the Royal Marsden, the Institute of Cancer Research and the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre as well as AstraZeneca.