New research suggests that a drug used to combat other cancers could be employed as an effective ovarian cancer treatment, mitigating the disease, and boosting a patient’s response to therapy.
Trametinib – a medication traditionally administered to treat skin and lung cancers – has been shown to reduce the progression of a form of ovarian cancer and increase the number of people that respond to treatment. The study, funded by Target Ovarian Cancer, Cancer Research UK, Novartis, and NRG Oncology, indicates that trametinib should be considered as a standard ovarian cancer treatment.
The research is published in The Lancet.
Current therapy limitations
Low grade serous ovarian cancer makes up around 5% of epithelial ovarian cancer, comprising 95% of the disease, and predominantly occurs in young women, usually being diagnosed in its later stages. Traditionally, the most common ovarian cancer treatment involves surgery; chemotherapy is also utilised but achieves a low response rate, with 70% of patients relapsing.
In an endeavour to enhance ovarian cancer treatment, experts from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center performed a randomised clinical trial that involved 260 women with low serous grade ovarian cancer from the UK and US.
In the investigation, 130 women were given trametinib, and 130 received standard ovarian cancer treatment of chemotherapy or hormone therapy – each of the participants and clinicians was aware of the treatments being prescribed.
Next, the team assessed the effect on the tumours using CT or MRI scans every eight weeks of the first 15 months of the treatment and every three months after. Throughout the duration of the study, participants completed questionnaires on their daily quality of life and had pathology tests performed on tissue samples.
The analysis revealed that trametinib reduced the risk of disease progression or death by 52% compared to standard ovarian cancer treatment. The cancer progression was slowed by 13 months for patients on trametinib compared to those who received chemotherapy or hormonal treatment and was associated with a four-fold increase in response to treatment.
Participants who received trametinib reported side effects including fatigue, skin rash, and gastrointestinal problems – similar to those who received trametinib for other cancers. People who were administered the drug reported a slightly lower quality of life at 12 weeks compared to those on standard ovarian cancer treatment, but there were minimal differences between both groups at all other study points.
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, said: “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.”