OncoGenex Pharmaceuticals Inc has said that it is to start new clinical trials investigating the benefits of combining chemotherapy with apatorsen in patients with advanced squamous cell lung cancer. The CedarTM clinical trial is a phase 2 trial that is investigator-sponsored and randomised for sufferers who are yet to have any form of treatment. The majority of treatment for lung cancer currently involves chemotherapy; however, with cancer cells often becoming resistant, it is vital that new methods of preventing this resistance are found to optimise survival rates and increase quality of life for sufferers.
The drug used ‒ in this case apatorsen ‒ is an intravenously delivered pharmaceutical given to patients once a week. It is specifically designed to stop the production of hsp27, a heat shock protein that can enable cancer cells to resist treatments. In phase 2 of the investigation on this experimental drug, 140 patients who currently have stage IV or recurrent squamous cell lung cancers and who have not had any previous treatment will be randomised; as a result, cancer sufferers will receive either gemcitabine and carboplatin therapy, or this same therapy with the addition of apatorsen. The primary objective is to provide people with progression-free survival. Researchers will also evaluate response rates of tumours, safety, health-related quality of life, overall survival and tolerability.
Professor Peter Schmid, the trial’s primary investigator and lead at the Centre for Experimental Cancer Medicine, said: “Despite continuing advances for the treatment of lung cancer, progress in improving survival for patients with squamous cell carcinoma has been particularly slow. Given the depth of preclinical evidence supporting the utility of apatorsen in a broad range of cancers, we are excited to open enrolment in the Cedar trial to shed greater light on the ability of apatorsen to reduce resistance to chemotherapies and improve survival outcomes for patients with squamous cell lung cancer.”
Lung cancer is the world’s most common cancer, with approximately 1.6 million new cases diagnosed every year. It is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women in the United States, accounting for around 160,000 deaths last year. Non-small cell lung cancer currently contributes to around 80% of all lung cancer cases and the vast majority of these are advanced or metastatic at diagnosis. Squamous histology accounts for between 25% and 30% of all lung cancer cases, with chemotherapy remaining the backbone of most treatment plans.
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