Researchers in Austria, Germany and Hungary have added to the growing belief that the anti-cancer drug nintedanib may soon become a significant part of standard-of-care treatment for malignant pleural mesothelioma.
In their study published recently in Clinical Cancer Research, nintedanib demonstrated an ability to inhibit the growth and the migration of mesothelioma tumor cells effectively in animal models.
“This is a step in the right direction, another part of the evolutionary process of treatment advancements with this difficult disease,” Dr. Balazs Hegedus, department of thoracic surgery, University of Duisburg-Essen, told Asbestos.com. “This is an important finding.”
Nintedanib, also known by brand names Ofev and Vargetef, works by targeting a specific molecule expressed by most mesothelioma tumor cells. It functions much like bevacizumab (Avastin), one of the world’s best-selling cancer drugs, but it does so more effectively, according to this latest study.
“Importantly, this anti-tumor effect of nintedanib in experimental animals was stronger than that of bevacizumab,” Dr. Balazs Dome, head of the Translational Thoracic Oncology Program at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria said. “A key message is that nintedanib be considered superior as part of systemic anti-tumor therapy.”
Nintedanib Smothers Tumor Cells
Nintedanib inhibits tumor growth by denying cancer cells the oxygen and nutrients they need.
The drug is already approved for use with pulmonary fibrosis and certain cases of lung cancer.
There is a multicenter clinical trial, crossing several countries, already testing its effectiveness in combination with chemotherapy. It is called the LUME-Meso trial and is being watched closely.
Clinical trial sites participating within the United States include:
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston
UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, San Francisco
Greenville Health System, Greenville, S.C.
Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada, Henderson
Nintedanib Gaining Momentum
The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit is hosting the only U.S. trial involving stand-alone treatment with nintedanib as second-line therapy for pleural mesothelioma.
The Institut Gustave Roussy in France is running a clinical trial for mesothelioma that involves nintedanib in combination with pembrolizumab (Keytruda).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted nintedanib orphan drug designation in December of 2016, giving it limited availability while moving through the approval process.
“It will be exciting to see the outcome of the clinical trials,” Hegendus said. “We already know it is a safe drug and the inhibitory effect is real.”
Early LUME-Meso Results Are Impressive
Early results from the trial have been promising. They include a 9.4-month progression-free survival, which was almost double compared to chemotherapy alone.
The median overall survival benefit was 18.3 months, compared to 14.2 months for just chemotherapy.
Standard-of-care treatment for unresectable mesothelioma has been relatively ineffective for many years with a one-year survival rate hovering around 50 percent.
The regulatory industry in the United Kingdom granted early access designation earlier this year to nintedanib for use with pleural mesothelioma.
Doctors in the U.K. have been using it in combination with chemotherapy for certain lung cancers.