A new form of chemotherapy that destroys new blood vessels growing
around tumours has produced some promising results in a phase II trial of
patients with inoperable pancreatic cancer. The data was presented recently at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO).
The study evaluated the efficacy and safety of three different
doses of cationic lipid complexed paclitaxel (EndoTAG-1) administered
twice weekly, in combination with weekly infusions of gemcitabine,
compared to gemcitabine alone, in 200 patients with pancreatic
adenocarcinoma. Gemcitabine is considered the standard of care for this particular cancer.
EndoTAG, developed by MediGene, consists of charged particles that bind preferentially to the
fast-growing endothelial cells in new blood vessels being formed by
tumours. The drug, paclitaxel (Taxol), is then released
and reaches the tumours
vessels. Paclitaxel itself is not very efficient in pancreratic cancer, but this may be a novel approach for getting more chemotherapy into the heart of the tumour where it can do most damage.
After following patients for a year, it was found that
treatment with such combination led to a substantially extended median
survival time compared to standard therapy. Patients given gemcitabine
alone survived on average 7.2 months, compared to up to 13.6 months for
patients who received repeated doses of the combination (EndoTAG plus
Targeting the formation of new blood vessels and destroying ones
already present is very efficient, and has been quite successful for
other cancers, as Avastin has shown, but not to the same degree in pancreatic cancer. These results are very promising compared to the never ending doublets and triplets that have been previously tried and compared to gemcitabine therapy alone. The cancer is usually detected and diagnosed in the advanced stage, making it notoriously difficult to treat.