A brand new type of cancer drug that acts as a ‘Trojan horse’ to get inside tumour cells has shown promise in patients with six different cancer types.
The innovative new drug, called tisotumab vedotin (TV), releases a toxic substance to kill cancer cells from within. The results have been so positive the drug has now moved forward to phase II trials in cervical cancer and will be tested in a range of additional solid tumour cancers.
A team at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust led a Phase I/II global clinical trial of nearly 150 patients with a variety of cancer types who had stopped responding to standard treatments and found that a significant minority of cancer patients responded to the drug, with their tumours either shrinking or stopping growing.
They saw responses in 27% of patients with bladder cancer, 26.5% with cervical cancer, 14% ovarian cancer, 13% with oesophageal, 13% with non-small cell lung and 7% with endometrial cancer (although not in any men with prostate cancer).
The majority of patients in the early trial had advanced stage cancer (spread locally or around the body) that had already been treated with, and became resistant to, an average of three different types of treatment.
“What is so exciting about this treatment is that its mechanism of action is completely novel – it acts like a Trojan horse to sneak into cancer cells and kill them from the inside," said Professor Johann de Bono, regius Professor of Cancer Research at The Institute of Cancer Research, commenting on the drug.
"Our early study shows that it has the potential to treat a large number of different types of cancer, and particularly some of those with very poor survival rates.
“TV has manageable side effects, and we saw some good responses in the patients in our trial, all of whom had late-stage cancer that had been heavily pre-treated with other drugs and who had run out of other options.”
TV is made up of a toxic drug attached to the tail end of an antibody, which is designed to seek out a receptor called ‘tissue factor’ – present at high levels on the surface of many cancers cells and linked with worse survival. Binding to tissue factor draws the drug inside cancer cells, where it can kill them from within.