Role For Gemcitabine As Second-line Chemotherapy in Recurrent Clear Cell Ovarian Cancer

In a recent 2014 retrospective analysis involving 72 recurrent ovarian clear cell patients who underwent second-line therapy at one of 20 Italian centers over a 16-year period, the researchers noted that a small subgroup of patients who received the drug gemcitabine (Gemzar®) appeared to have a higher rate of tumor response, as compared to women who were treated with topotecan (Hycamtin®) or pegylated liposomal doxorubicin (Doxil®).

Clear Cell Carcinoma of the Ovary

Clear Cell Carcinoma of the Ovary

In the July 2014 issue of Oncology, Italian researchers present an interesting retrospective analysis of patients with recurrent clear-cell ovarian cancer [1], a fairly chemoresistant subtype of ovarian cancer that can be difficult to treat.

This retrospective analysis included 72 recurrent ovarian clear cell patients (OCCC), who underwent second-line therapy at one of 20 Italian centers over a 16-year period (as part of the “Multicenter Italian Trial in Ovarian Cancer” or “MITO-9”).

In 56% of the OCCC patients, the clear cell histology was “pure,” meaning the predominant cell type identified within the primary tumor was classified as clear cell (i.e., a subtype of epithelial ovarian cancer) by a molecular pathologist. Twenty-five patients were platinum-resistant, 18 patients were platinum-sensitive with a platinum-free interval (PFI) of 6-to-12 months, and 29 patients had a PFI >12 months. Upon disease recurrence, 47% of patients were treated with platinum chemotherapy (e.g., carboplatin or cisplatin) based upon PFI.

The overall tumor response rate (RR) to the use of platinum drugs was 80%, with 55%, 100%, and 80% RRs in patients with PFIs of 6-to-12 months, >12 months, and >24 months, respectively. The RR to non-platinum drugs in resistant OCCC patients was 33%. Among the non-platinum drugs used in primary and secondary resistant cases, gemcitabine (Gemzar®), administered to 12 OCCC patients, produced higher anti-cancer activity (RR = 66%), as compared to topotecan (Hycamtin®) or liposomal doxorubicin (Doxil®) (number of patients = 31; RRs = 33% and 10%, respectively).

The Italian researchers concluded that the overall study results suggest that the treatment of recurrent OCCC, in general, should be based upon the duration of the patient’s PFI, as is customary in the treatment of other epithelial ovarian cancer subtypes. However, the data relating to the platinum-resistant OCCC patients evaluated in the Italian study suggest that gemcitabine (Gemzar®) was the drug that produced the greatest anti-cancer activity.

Notably, the results reported by the Italian researchers are consistent with the similar findings reported in a small number of previous studies involving an equally small number of recurrent OCCC patients. [2 – 5]

Maurie Markman, M.D.

Also appearing in the July 2014 Oncology issue is a commentary written by Maurie Markman, M.D., the President of the Medicine and Science unit of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA).[6] Dr. Markman oversees the CTCA national clinical team, with a focus on the application of all clinical and translational research to patient care. In his commentary, Dr. Markman notes the importance of retrospective studies as a “long-established tradition in clinical cancer investigation.” Dr. Markman highlights the potential inportance of retrospective studies as noted below.

  • Single institutional data or large multicenter efforts examining past experiences can serve both as “hypothesis-generating” elements for a future prospective clinical study, an idea to be explored in a translational laboratory research project, and even as confirmation of the results of a reported study in a more heterogeneous patient population.
  • Retrospective analyses can provide critically relevant data in populations known to be poorly represented in cancer clinical trials and may identify adverse events potentially not recognized in the often highly homogenous groups of study participants.
  • The safety and the efficacy associated with longer observation periods and a more prolonged therapy than reported in many prospective clinical trials can be revealed through retrospective examinations of previously treated patients.

Within this context, Dr. Markman addresses the limitations of the Italian recurrent OCCC retrospective analyses cited above, but he also emphasizes the potential benefit of that study, as follows:

“Of course, it must be emphasized that the very limited sample size does not permit any definitive conclusions regarding the relative utility of any individual strategy, including providing a truly meaningful ‘objective response rate’. However, recognizing the rarity of this specific malignant condition (72 total [OCCC] patients identified in a period of 16 years at 20 centers), this retrospective experience will likely be of some value to individual oncologists needing to consider potential therapeutic options for a patient with recurrent clear-cell ovarian cancer. Further, in the event a multi-institutional prospective trial is ultimately undertaken in this most uncommon clinical setting, the results of this retrospective analysis should surely help to inform the planned study design.” [emphasis added]

At Libby’s H*O*P*E*, we generally recommend that recurrent OCCC patients speak to their doctor about the potential benefits (and limitations) associated with (i) molecular/genomic tumor profiling,  and (ii) chemosensistivity and resistance assay (CSRA) testing. The use of both forms of tumor testing may provide a recurrent OCCC patient and her doctor(s) with additional insights related to specific treatment options. In the event that neither form of tumor testing is possible, the results from the Italian study discussed above suggest that the use of gemcitabine (Gemzar®) to treat recurrent OCCC should be, at a minimum, considered by a recurrent OCCC patient and her doctor.

In addition, we strongly recommend that a newly-diagnosed or recurrent OCCC patient should consider the drugs being currently evaluated, as of this writing, in open OCCC patient-dedicated clinical trials, including as temsirolimus (Torisel®) [7], sunitinib (Sutent®) [8], ENMD-2076 [9], and dasatinib (Sprycel®) [10].

References:

1./ Esposito F et al. Second-line chemotherapy in recurrent clear cell ovarian cancer: Results from the Multicenter Italian Trials in Ovarian Cancer (MITO-9). Oncology 2014;86:351-358. PubMed PMID:24942520.

2./ Yoshino K, et al. Salvage chemotherapy for recurrent or persistent clear cell carcinoma of the ovary: a single-institution experience for a series of 20 patients. Int J Clin Oncol. 2013 Feb;18(1):148-53. doi: 10.1007/s10147-011-0357-5. Epub 2011 Dec 10. PubMed PMID: 22160560.

3./ Komiyama S et al. A heavily pretreated patient with recurrent clear cell adenocarcinoma of the ovary in whom carcinomatous peritonitis was controlled successfully by salvage therapy with gemcitabine. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2008 Dec;278(6):565-8. Epub 2007 Jun 19. Erratum in: Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2009 Feb;279(2):271. Komiyama, Shin [corrected to Komiyama, Shin-ichi]. PubMed PMID: 17576588.

4./ Ferrandina G et al. A case of drug resistant clear cell ovarian cancer showing responsiveness to gemcitabine at first administration and at re-challenge. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2007 Aug;60(3):459-61. Epub 2007 Apr 11. PubMed PMID: 17429624.

5./ Crotzer DR et al. Lack of effective systemic therapy for recurrent clear cell carcinoma of the ovary. Gynecol Oncol. 2007 May;105(2):404-8. Epub 2007 Feb 9. PubMed PMID: 17292461.

6./ Markman M. A Unique Role for Retrospective Studies in Clinical Oncology. Oncology. 2014;86(5-6):350. doi: 10.1159/000360911. Epub 2014 Jun 12. PubMed PMID:24942408.

7./ A Phase II Evaluation of Temsirolimus (CCI-779) (NCI Supplied Agent: NSC# 683864,) in Combination With Carboplatin and Paclitaxel Followed by Temsirolimus (CCI-779) Consolidation as First-Line Therapy in the Treatment of Stage III-IV Clear Cell Carcinoma of the Ovary. ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01196429.

8./ A Phase II Evaluation of the Efficacy of Sunitinib® in Patients With Recurrent Ovarian Clear Cell Carcinoma. ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01824615.

9./ A Phase II Study of Oral ENMD-2076 Administered to Patients With Ovarian Clear Cell Carcinomas. ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01914510.

10./ A Phase II Trial of DCTD-Sponsored Dasatinib (NSC #732517) in Recurrent/Persistent Ovary, Fallopian Tube, Primary Peritoneal, and Endometrial Clear Cell Carcinoma Characterized for the Retention or Loss of BAF250a Expression. ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02059265.

 

 

Dana Farber Webchat: The Latest in Ovarian Cancer Treatment & Research

The latest developments in ovarian cancer treatment and research are addressed in the video below via a Dana-Farber Cancer Institute webchat that was conducted on September 16, 2014.

The Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute conducted a live video webchat panel with Ursula Matulonis, M.D., medical director of the Gynecologic Oncology Program, and gynecologic oncologists Panos Konstantinopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., and Susana Campos, M.D., MPH. The live webchat was held on September 16, 2014.

The general webchat topics addressed by the Dana-Farber doctors are listed below. For your convenience, we also provided the approximate video start time associated with each discussion topic. The entire video runs 49 minutes and 20 seconds.

  • Various types/subtypes of ovarian cancer and treatment differences. [1:40 minutes]
  • CA-125 and other ovarian cancer biomarkers. [5:10 minutes]
  • Areas of ongoing ovarian cancer research. [9:28 minutes]
  • Ovarian cancer treatment alternatives to standard of care chemotherapy. [13:55 minutes]
  • PARP Inhibitors & Immunotherapy. [15:03 minutes]
  • Mechanisms to reverse platinum drug resistance. [17:15 minutes]
  • Correlation between ovarian cancer and HPV (Human papillomavirus). [19:30 minutes]
  • The use of clinical trials for the treatment of ovarian cancer. [19:43 minutes]
  • Stage 1 ovarian cancer prognosis. [21:47 minutes]
  • Gene mutations related to hereditary ovarian cancer risk. [22:55 minutes]
  • Treatment options for platinum drug refractory/resistant ovarian cancer. [25:27 minutes]
  • Treatment of BRCA gene-mutated ovarian cancer patients. [27:50 minutes]
  • Ovarian cancer prevention. [30:18 minutes]
  • Promising treatments for ovarian clear cell cancer. [31:43 minutes]
  • Proper nutrition during and after ovarian cancer treatment. [33:47 minutes]
  • Symptoms associated with an ovarian cancer recurrence. [35:06 minutes]
  • Ovarian neuroendocrine cancer. [36:16 minutes]
  • Small-cell ovarian cancer. [39:22 minutes]
  • Origin of ovarian cancer. [42:41 minutes]
  • Treatment options for isolated or limited recurrent ovarian cancer tumors/lesions. [45:26 minutes]
  • Closing: Most Exciting Ovarian Cancer Developments. [47:07 minutes]

 

U.S. Food & Drug Administration Acts to Bolster Supply of Critically Needed Cancer Drugs Including Doxil

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced a series of steps to (i) increase the supply of critically needed cancer drugs, and (ii) build upon President Obama’s Executive Order to help prevent future drug shortages.  To alleviate the Doxil cancer drug shortage, the FDA approved  the temporary importation of a replacement drug named “Lipodox” (doxorubicin hydrochloride liposome injection), with the expectation of  ending the U.S. shortage and fully meeting patient needs in the coming weeks. Doxil is an important weapon in the fight against recurrent ovarian cancer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced a series of steps designed to increase the supply of critically needed cancer drugs, and build upon President Obama’s Executive Order, dated October 31, 2011 (No. 13588), in an attempt to prevent future drug shortages.

Margaret Hamburg, M.D., Commissioner, U.S. Food & Drug Administration

“A drug shortage can be a frightening prospect for patients and President Obama made it clear that preventing these shortages from happening is a top priority of his administration,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “Through the collaborative work of the FDA, industry, and other stakeholders, patients and families waiting for these products or anxious about their availability should now be able to get the medication they need.”

In response to the critical shortage of the cancer drug Doxil (doxorubicin hydrochloride liposome injection) and rapidly declining supplies of methotrexate, the FDA took proactive steps needed to increase available supply for patients in the U.S.

For Doxil, there will be temporary importation of a replacement drug named “LipoDox” (doxorubicin hydrochloride liposome injection), which is expected to end the shortage and fully meet patient needs in the coming weeks.

For methotrexate, in addition to already announced actions, the FDA approved a new manufacturer of preservative-free formulation of methotrexate that is expected to further bolster supply and help avert a shortage of this lifesaving medicine. the FDA expedited review of the application to help address this potential shortage.

In response to President Obama’s Executive Order #13588 regarding prescription drug shortages, the FDA today issued draft guidance to industry which provides detailed requirements for both mandatory and voluntary notifications to the FDA of issues that could result in a drug shortage or supply disruption. Because of President Obama’s Executive Order #13588 and the FDA’s letter to manufacturers on the same day, increased awareness of the importance of early notification has resulted in a sixfold increase in voluntary notifications by industry of potential shortages. In 2011, there were a total of 195 drug shortages prevented. Since the issuance of Presidential Executive Order #13588, the FDA has prevented 114 drug shortages.

Under the FDA’s exercise of enforcement discretion, the chemotherapeutic drug LipoDox will be imported as an alternative to Doxil. Doxil is used in multiple treatment regimens, including treatment of ovarian cancer after failure of platinum-based chemotherapy (e.g., carboplatin or cisplatin). The drug is also indicated for use in AIDS-related Kaposi’s sarcoma and multiple myeloma. The FDA anticipates that the incoming supply of LipoDox will be able to fully meet patient needs.

The FDA’s exercise of enforcement discretion for Lipodox is a temporary, limited arrangement specific to Sun Pharma Global FZE (a United Arab Emirates entity) and its authorized distributor, Caraco Pharmaceutical Laboratories Ltd. (a U.S. subsidiary of Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., a leading Indian pharmaceutical company).

Temporary importation of unapproved foreign drugs is considered in rare cases when there is a shortage of an approved drug that is critical to patients and the shortage cannot be resolved in a timely fashion with FDA-approved drugs.

When a company is identified that is willing and able to import the needed drug product, the FDA evaluates the foreign-approved drug to ensure that it is of adequate quality and that the drug does not pose significant risks for U.S. patients. Only after successful evaluation of these factors does the FDA exercise its enforcement discretion for the temporary importation of an overseas drug into the U.S. market.

Methotrexate is a drug that is needed for the treatment of many forms of cancer and other serious diseases. For example, preservative-free methotrexate is needed for the intrathecal (injection into the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord) treatment of children with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), as well as high-dose therapy of osteosarcoma.

To alleviate the shortage of methotrexate, the FDA has successfully engaged several firms to assist in maintaining supplies to meet all patient needs. First, the FDA has prioritized the review and approval of a preservative-free methotrexate generic drug manufactured by APP Pharmaceuticals (APP) and expects that product to become available in March 2012 and continue indefinitely. Second, Hospira expedited release of additional methotrexate supplies, resulting in 31,000 vials of new product – enough for more than one month’s worth of demand – being shipped to hundreds of U.S. hospitals and treatment centers today. The FDA is actively working with other manufacturers of methotrexate who have also stepped up to increase drug production for the purpose of meeting patient needs, including Mylan and Sandoz Pharmaceuticals.

APP’s application for preservative-free methotrexate is a supplement to its already approved generic drug application that the firm had previously discontinued. When the FDA became aware of potential problems with the supply of the drug (attributable to the voluntary plant closing of the largest methotrexate manufacturer, Ben Venue Laboratories), the agency reached out to other firms to see how the FDA could assist to meet the shortfall.

Prior to the approval of APP’s application, and the subsequent Ben Venue Laboratories’ voluntary shutdown, the FDA worked with Ben Venue on release of already manufactured preservative-free methotrexate, following its confirmation of the safety of remaining drug inventory. This supply is available already and will provide emergency supplies as the other firms also work to increase production of methotrexate in response to requests by the FDA and the public.

On October 31, 2011, the Obama Administration also announced its support for bipartisan legislation that would (i) require all prescription drug shortages to be reported to the FDA, and (ii) give the FDA new authority to enforce these requirements. While additional manufacturing capacity is necessary to fully address the drug shortage problem, additional early notification to the FDA can have a significant, positive impact on addressing the incidence and duration of drug shortages.

For more FDA information relating to the U.S. drug shortage, please click on the topics listed below:

Drug Shortages

Drug Shortage Guidance (“Guidance for Industry — Notification to FDA of Issues that May Result in a Prescription Drug or Biological Product Shortage – Draft Guidance,” dated February 2012)

Labeling for Doxil (doxorubicin hydrochloride liposome injection)

Letter from Sun Pharma Global FZE to healthcare professionals regarding doxorubicin, dated January 27, 2012.

FDA letter to Industry regarding drug shortage, dated October 31, 2011.

Labeling for methotrexate

Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA

About the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The FDA is also responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

Source: FDA acts to bolster supply of critically needed cancer drugs, FDA News Release, U.S. Food & Drug Administration, February 21, 2012.

Can Iran Solve the Current U.S. Doxil/Caelyx Cancer Drug Shortage?

Iran expects to bring a  cancer nanodrug called “Sinadoxosome” to market next month. Sinadoxosome is apparently similiar to pegylated liposomal doxorubicin which is marketed under the brand name “Doxil” in the U.S. and “Caelyx” in Europe. Doxil/Caelyx has been in extreme short supply in the U.S. and Europe, thereby causing potential detriment to many ovarian cancer patients.

Iran inaugurated the production line of an anti-cancer nanodrug under the name “Sinadoxosome” in the Northern city of Rasht, and the medicine will soon come to market.

In addition to producing the amount of nanodrug required by Iran, the new drug production line makes possible the exportation of the drug to other countries. The drug acquired the necessary certificates from Nanotechnology Committee of the Ministry of Health, Treatment, and Medical Education in November 2011.

Dr. Mahmoud Reza Ja’fari, the Managing Director of Exir Nano Sina Company, told the Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council’s reporter that the anti-cancer drug Sinadoxosome would be presented to the market next month.

“This product has been produced by the knowledge-based company Exir Nano Sina in association with Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council. It has acquired the production certificate from the Ministry of Health, Treatment, and Medical Education,” Dr. Ja’fari added.

Pointing to the fact that the production of this medicine had been “monopolized” by European countries (under the “Caelyx” brand name) and by the United States (under the “Doxil” brand name), the Head of Nanotechnology Research Centre of Mashhad University of Medical Sciences said: “The importation of this medicine cost [sic] $5 mln annually. However, this medicine will be presented to the patients at one-third of the price of the foreign drug after the establishment of Sinadoxosome production line.”

Sinadoxosome contains nano liposomes that contain doxorubicin anti-cancer medicine. It targets the tumor tissue and boosts the effect of the medicine but decreases its side effects. The medicine has applications in the treatment of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, leukemia, and Kaposi’s sarcoma (a type of soft tissue cancer).

The production line involving the Sinadoxosome anti-cancer drug was established on February 8, 2012, in the presence of Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council’s authorities and the managing director and researchers of the Sobhan Oncology Pharmaceutical Company.

*          *          *

In the YouTube video presented below, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, delivered the opening statement at a 2011 committee hearing examining the impact of drug shortages in America.

Source: Iran to Present New Anti-Cancer Nanodrug to Market Soon, Iran Nano-Technology Initiative Council, February 15, 2012.

Additional Doxil & Drug Shortage Information:

ASCO 2011: Genetic Biomarker Predicts Taxane Drug-Induced Neuropathy

A new study has identified the first genetic biomarkers for taxane-induced peripheral neuropathy, a potentially severe complication of taxane chemotherapy that affects nerves in about one-third of patients with cancer receiving such treatment.

ASCO Releases Studies From Upcoming Annual Meeting – Important Advances in Targeted Therapies, Screening, and Personalized Medicine

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) today highlighted several studies in a press briefing from among more than 4,000 abstracts publicly posted online at http://www.asco.org in advance of ASCO’s 47th Annual Meeting. An additional 17 plenary, late-breaking and other major studies will be released in on-site press conferences at the Annual Meeting.

The meeting, which is expected to draw approximately 30,000 cancer specialists, will be held June 3-7, 2011, at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois. The theme of this year’s meeting is “Patients. Pathways. Progress.”

“This year marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of the National Cancer Act, a law that led to major new investments in cancer research. Every day in our offices, and every year at the ASCO meeting, we see the results of those investments. People with cancer are living longer, with a better quality of life, than ever before,” said George W. Sledge Jr., M.D., President of ASCO, Ballve-Lantero Professor of Oncology and professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

“With our growing understanding of the nature of cancer development and behavior, cancer is becoming a chronic disease that a growing number of patients can live with for many years,” said Dr. Sledge. “The studies released today are the latest examples of progress against the disease, from new personalized treatments, to new approaches to screening and prevention.”

New study results involving a genetic marker which can predict taxane drug-induced neuropathy were highlighted today in the ASCO press briefing, as summarized below.

Genetic Biomarker Predicts Taxane-Induced Neuropathy

A new study has identified the first genetic biomarkers for taxane drug-induced peripheral neuropathy, a potentially severe complication of taxane chemotherapy that affects nerves in about one-third of patients with cancer receiving such treatment. The finding may eventually lead to a simple blood test to determine whether a patient is at high risk for neuropathy.

Bryan P. Schneider, M.D., Physician & Researcher, Indiana University Melvin & Bren Simon Cancer Center; Associate Director, Indiana Institute for Personalized Medicine

“If these findings can be replicated, this may allow physicians to know prior to recommending therapy whether the patient is at an inordinate risk for developing taxane-induced neuropathy,” said Bryan P. Schneider, M.D., lead author and a physician/researcher at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center and Associate Director for the Indiana Institute for Personalized Medicine. “This may allow for better counseling, use of alternative drugs or schedules, or omission of taxanes in the appropriate settings. These genetic findings might also provide insight into the mechanism of this side effect and help develop drugs to prevent this toxicity altogether.”

Such damage to the nerves can cause pain and numbness and limit the dose of chemotherapy a patient can receive. While only a few factors seem to predict which patients are likely to get peripheral neuropathy, including a history of diabetes and advanced age, genetic variations may explain why some patients are more sensitive to taxane drugs.

The authors conducted a genome wide association study on 2,204 patients enrolled in an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group breast cancer clinical trial (E5103) in which all patients received taxane-based chemotherapy, namely paclitaxel (Taxol). The study looked for variations in DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) called single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs (pronounced “snips”), by evaluating more than 1.2 million SNPs in each patient.  A SNP is a DNA sequence variation which occurs when a single nucleotide — A (adenine), T (thymine), C (cytosine), or G (guanine) — in the genome (or other shared sequence) differs between two individuals, or between paired chromosomes located within the nucleus of an individual’s cells.

With a median follow-up of 15 months, the study identified genetic subgroups that were markedly more likely to develop peripheral neuropathy.

Those who carried two normal nucleotides in the RWDD3 gene had a 27 percent chance of experiencing neuropathy; those who carried one normal nucleotide and one SNP had a 40 percent risk; and those who carried two SNPs had a 60 percent risk.

In contrast, those who carried two normal nucleotides in the TECTA gene had a 29 percent chance of experiencing neuropathy; those who carried one normal nucleotide and one SNP had a 32 percent risk; and those who carried two SNPs had a 57 percent risk.

The study also found that older patients and African Americans were much more likely to have peripheral neuropathy, and further analysis of SNPs in these groups is underway.

The authors plan to continue their work in additional trials to validate these findings and to determine whether a different type or schedule of taxane therapy would result in less neuropathy in the more susceptible genetic groups. The authors also are collaborating with neurobiologists to understand why these genetic variations might make the nerves more sensitive to these drugs.

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Resources:

Experimental Drug NVP-BEZ235 Slows Ovarian Cancer Growth in Mice; Solid Tumor Clinical Trials Ongoing

A study conducted recently at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center found that experimental drug NVP-BEZ235, which blocks two points of a crucial cancer cell signaling pathway, inhibits the growth of ovarian cancer cells and significantly increases survival in an ovarian cancer mouse model.

A study conducted recently at  UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (JCCC) found that an experimental drug, which blocks two points of a crucial cancer cell signaling pathway, inhibits the growth of ovarian cancer cells and significantly increases survival in an ovarian cancer mouse model.

Oliver Dorigo, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Gynecologic Oncology, Division Gynecologic Oncology, UCLA Jonnson Comprehensive Cancer Center; Member, JCCC Cancer Molecular Imaging Program Area

The Novartis Oncology drug, called NVP-BEZ235, also inhibits growth of ovarian cancer cells that have become resistant to the conventional treatment with platinum chemotherapy and helps to resensitize the cancer cells to the therapy. In addition, it enhances the effect of platinum chemotherapy on ovarian cancer cells that are still responding to the therapy, said the study’s senior author, Dr. Oliver Dorigo, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and a JCCC researcher.

“Platinum-based chemotherapy drugs are effective in treating ovarian cancers as long as the cancer cells remain sensitive to platinum,” Dorigo said. “But once the tumor becomes resistant, treating the cancer becomes very challenging. This is a significant clinical problem, since the majority of ovarian cancer patients develop resistance at some point during treatment. Breaking chemotherapy resistance is a difficult challenge, but crucial if we want to improve long-term survival for our patients.”

The study, performed on cells lines and mouse models, appears in the April 15 issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

Over the last several years, Dorigo has been working in his laboratory to develop new therapies for ovarian cancer. About 22,000 American women are diagnosed each year with ovarian cancer, and more than 14,000 deaths are attributed to the disease annually. Dorigo has focused his research efforts on a pathway called PI3Kinase/Akt/mTOR, which, once activated, promotes ovarian cancer growth. The activated pathway also makes the cancer more aggressive and more likely to spread to other organs, Dorigo said, so targeting it offers great promise for more effective therapies for the disease.

In this two-year study, Dorigo and postdoctoral fellow Chintda Santiskulvong found that inhibiting two checkpoints of the pathway — PI3Kinase and mTOR — with NVP-BEZ235 decreased cancer growth, both in cell culture dishes and in mice with ovarian cancer. It also significantly increased survival in the mice, he said. More importantly, NVP-BEZ235 slowed growth of the ovarian cancer cells that had become resistant to platinum and helped to break that resistance.

“We were very encouraged to find that NPV-BEZ235 could resensitize the ovarian cancer cells to standard platinum treatment,” Dorigo said. “In addition, we found this drug to be more effective in inhibiting ovarian cancer cell growth than other drugs that target only one checkpoint, mTOR, in this pathway. We believe that NVP-BEZ235 has superior efficacy because of the dual effect on PI3Kinase and mTOR.”

The experimental drug is being tested as a single agent at the Jonsson Cancer Center in human clinical trials against other solid tumors. Researchers involved with those studies have said early results are encouraging.

John Glaspy, M.D., M.P.H., Co-Chief, Department of Medicine, Hematology/Oncology, UCLA Jonnson Comprehensive Cancer Center; JCCC Director, JCCC Clinical Research Unit; Member, Stand Up To Cancer Mangement Committee

“This is clearly a promising agent with activity in humans,” said Dr. John Glaspy, a professor of hematology–oncology and a Jonsson Cancer Center scientist involved with the studies. “We are still assessing its tolerability in patients.”

Dorigo said he hopes to initiate a clinical trial for women with ovarian cancer that tests the combination of NVP-BEZ235 with platinum chemotherapy, as he believes that the combination might be more effective than each drug alone.

The study was funded by the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation/Liz Tilberis Scholarship, the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation/Florence and Marshall Schwid Ovarian Cancer Award, a STOP Cancer Career Development Award and the National Institutes of Health’s Women’s Reproductive Health Research Program.

About the UCLA Jonnson Comprehensive Cancer Center

UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has more than 240 researchers and clinicians engaged in disease research, prevention, detection, control, treatment and education. One of the nation’s largest comprehensive cancer centers, the Jonsson Center is dedicated to promoting research and translating basic science into leading-edge clinical studies. In July 2010, the center was named among the top 10 cancer centers nationwide by U.S. News & World Report, a ranking it has held for 10 of the last 11 years.

Sources:

Clinical Trial Information:

U.K. NICE Issues New Clinical Guidelines Re Recognition & Initial Management of Ovarian Cancer

On April 27, 2011, the U.K. National Institute For Health and Clinical Excellence issued new clinical guidelines regarding the recognition and initial management of ovarian cancer.

On April 27, 2011, the U.K. National Institute For Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued new clinical guidelines regarding the recognition and initial management of ovarian cancer.

In the first ever clinical guideline for ovarian cancer, NICE is calling for more initial investigations to take place in primary care settings, such as general practice (GP) surgeries, so that women can be referred to hospital specialists sooner and begin treatment. This guidance updates and replaces recommendation 1.7.4 in Referral guidelines for suspected cancer (NICE clinical guideline 27; published 2005).

NICE also produced a series of tools to help U.K. healthcare professionals put this new guidance into practice, including guidance documents for doctors and patients, podcasts, clinical case scenarios and a slide set. To view a complete list of all NICE-produced guidance materials available to doctors and patients, visit http://guidance.nice.org.uk/CG122.

The full text NICE ovarian cancer clinical guidelines are classified under the following six chapter headings:

  • Epidemiology
  • Detection in Primary Care
  • Establishing the Diagnosis in Primary Care
  • Management of Suspected Early (stage I) Ovarian Cancer
  • Management of Advanced (stage II-IV) Ovarian Cancer
  • Support Needs of Women With Newly Diagnosed Ovarian Cancer

The key priorities identified by NICE for successful implementation of the new ovarian cancer clinical guidelines by primary and secondary healthcare professionals include the topics addressed below.

Awareness of Symptoms & Signs

— Carry out tests in primary care if a woman (especially if 50 or over) reports having any of the following symptoms on a persistent or frequent basis – particularly more than 12 times per month:

  • persistent abdominal distension (women often refer to this as “bloating”);
  • feeling full (early satiety) and/or loss of appetite;
  • pelvic or abdominal pain; and/or
  • increased urinary urgency and/or frequency.

— Carry out appropriate tests for ovarian cancer in any woman of 50 or over who has experienced symptoms within the last 12 months that suggest irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), because IBS rarely presents for the first time in women of this age.

Asking the Right Question – First Tests

— Measure serum CA125 in primary care in women with symptoms that suggest ovarian cancer.

— If serum CA125 is 35 IU/ml or greater, arrange an ultrasound scan of the abdomen and pelvis.

— For any woman who has normal serum CA125 (less than 35 IU/ml), or CA125 of 35 IU/ml or greater but a normal ultrasound:

  • assess her carefully for other clinical causes of her symptoms and investigate if appropriate; and
  • if no other clinical cause is apparent, advise her to return to her general practitioner (GP) if her symptoms become more frequent and/or persistent.

Malignancy Indices

— Calculate a risk of malignancy index I (RMI I) score (after performing an ultrasound) and refer all women with an RMI I score of 250 or greater to a specialist multidisciplinary team.

— Risk of malignancy index I (RMI I): RMI I is a product of the ultrasound scan score (U), menopausal status (M) and serum CA125 level.

— RMI I = U x M x  CA125

  • The ultrasound result is scored 1 point for each of the following characteristics: multilocular cysts, solid areas, metastases, ascites, and bilateral lesions. U = 0 for an ultrasound score of 0 points, U = 1 for an ultrasound score of 1 point, U = 3 for an ultrasound score of 2–5 points.
  • Menopausal status is scored as 1 = pre-menopausal and 3 = post-menopausal. The classification of “post-menopausal” is a woman who has had no period for more than 1 year or a woman over 50 who has had a hysterectomy.
  • Serum CA125 is measured in IU/ml.

Tissue Diagnosis

— If offering cytotoxic chemotherapy to women with suspected advanced ovarian cancer, first obtain a confirmed tissue diagnosis by histology (or by cytology if histology is not appropriate) in all but exceptional cases.

The Role of Systematic Retroperitoneal Lymphadenectomy

— Do not include systematic retroperitoneal lymphadenectomy (block dissection of lymph nodes from the pelvic side walls to the level of the renal veins) as part of standard surgical treatment in women with suspected ovarian cancer whose disease appears to be confined to the ovaries (that is, who appear to have stage I disease).

Adjuvant Systemic Chemotherapy For Stage I Disease

— Do not offer adjuvant chemotherapy to women who have had optimal surgical staging and have low-risk stage I disease ([tumor] grade 1 or 2, stage Ia or Ib).

Support Needs of Women with Newly Diagnosed Ovarian Cancer

— Offer all women with newly diagnosed ovarian cancer information about their disease, including psychosocial and psychosexual issues, that:

  • is available at the time they want it;
  • includes the amount of detail that they want and are able to deal with; and
  • is in a suitable format, including written information.

Source:  Ovarian cancer: the recognition and initial management of ovarian cancer (CG122), Full Guideline, National Institute For Health & Clinical Excellence (NICE), U.K. National Health Service (NHS), April 2011.

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