Scientists have begun using trametinib – used to treat skin and lung cancers – for ovarian cancer, showing that it can significantly slow the progression of the cancer
A clinical trial found that the drug trametinib can be recently considered as a new standard of care for a form of ovarian cancer – low grade serous ovarian cancer. This cancer accounts for 5% of epithelial ovarian cancers, which represents 95% of the disease.
Occurring mostly in young women, this cancer is commonly only diagnosed in the advanced stages. The current most common treatment is surgery, as well as chemotherapy. However, both options have a low response rate and 70% of patients relapse.
Trametinib reduced risk of disease progression and death by 52%
Published in The Lancet, the researchers from the University of Edinburgh and University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center conducted a clinical trial involving 260 randomised women from the UK and USA with low serous grade ovarian cancer.
In this trial, 130 women received trametinib and 130 received the usual, standard care of either hormone therapy or chemotherapy, with every participant and clinician knowing what was being prescribed.
The researchers then assessed the effect on the tumours using CT or MRI scans every eight weeks for the first 15 months of treatment and every three months after.
Additionally, the participants completed questionnaires on their quality of life during the study with pathology tests conducted on their tissue samples – finding that trametinib reduced the risk of disease progression or death by 52% compared with hormonal treatment or chemotherapy.
For patients on trametinib, the progression of their cancer was slowed by 13 months, when compared with seven months for those on standard care. Trametinib was also associated with a fourfold increase in response to treatment compared with those who received standard care.
Ovarian cancer patients who received trametinib reported side effects that included fatigue, skin rash and gastrointestinal problems, which is common for patients with other cancers who also receive trametinib.
However, another negative effect of the trametinib was that patients had a slightly lower quality of life at 12 weeks compared with those on standard care – yet there were still only minimal differences between both groups at all other time points.
Disproportionately affecting women under 50
Professor Charlie Gourley, Clinical Director, Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre, University of Edinburgh and senior author, said: “These findings represent a step change in the management of this difficult to treat cancer. We now need to build on this to provide further improvements in outcome for these patients.”
Annwen Jones OBE, Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, added: “This is extremely positive news for the ovarian cancer community. Low grade serous ovarian cancer disproportionately affects those under the age of 50.
“Standard treatments are generally less effective for this sub-type and there is a very urgent need to develop new drugs to transform outcomes. We are proud to have funded this groundbreaking project in partnership with other major research funders, and it is vital that we now push for trametinib to be made available quickly throughout the UK.”
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