Two new treatments are being tested in the East Midlands for an aggressive cancer caused mainly by exposure to asbestos.
The research into mesothelioma is being done at Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital.
Since the 1960s, it has been known that the disease can be triggered by the inhalation of asbestos fibres. Despite the UK’s ban on asbestos issued in 1985, the number of deaths caused by the disease has grown each year from 153 in 1968 to 2,321 in 2009 – the highest incidence in the world.
This number is set to continue to rise sharply over the next 20 years, with a peak coming in 2020.
Two studies involving Leicester’s Hospitals and the University of Leicester aim to test new potential treatments which could improve survival and quality of life for mesothelioma patients.
Meso2, a study funded by Synta Pharmaceuticals, aims to test the effectiveness of a drug called ganetespib in preventing mesothelioma tumours.
Ganetespib inhibits the action of a protein in cells called heat shock protein 90 (HSP90), which is required for the stabilization and proper functioning of many proteins required for tumour growth.
The trial will involve around 140 patients across the UK. Professor Fennell said: “We think this is a new way of being able to target mesothelioma. Laboratory tests show ganetespib is extremely active in mesothelioma – and combined with chemotherapy, this treatment could shrink cancers down and improve symptoms for patients.”
The second trial is part of a global trial named COMMAND (Control of Mesothelioma with MAiNtenance Defactinib) sponsored by pharmaceutical company Verastem, which will investigate a new drug called defactinib.
The researchers believe the drug could help to inhibit focal adhesion kinase (FAK), which is critical for the cancer stem cells’ development into tumors.
The drug could potentially reduce the need for repeated chemotherapy treatment by killing cancer stem cells remaining following front-line therapy.
The trial will involve around 350 – 400 mesothelioma patients worldwide and Leicester’s Hospitals and the University of Leicester is leading the study for the UK, which was the first country to open the trial worldwide.
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