Epigenetic therapy shows promise in hard-to-treat lung cancer

November 10, 2011

Patients with recurrent metastatic non-small cell lung cancer have a morbid prognosis, but a new epigenetic therapy may have potential for this population, according to data published in Cancer Discovery, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

A research team at Johns Hopkins University tested a combination epigenetic therapy of azacitidine and entinostat among 45 patients with recurrent metastatic non-small cell who had been heavily pretreated with other therapies but showed no response. Each patient received azacitidine on nine days and entinostat on two days per month. The trial had an “open-label” design, in which all patients received the treatment and there was no control group receiving a placebo.

Researchers found a median survival of 6.4 months with treatment, where the typical survival for this patient is four months. Patients who showed signs of gene methylation reversal in at least two of four key genes had better survival than the rest, and two patients experienced dramatic tumor shrinkages.

Four of the 19 patients who received subsequent anticancer therapies had a major objective response to immediate subsequent treatment with other agents. Seven patients remain alive, including two who began treatment approximately four years ago.

“We are starting to show traction for epigenetic therapy for one of the most difficult-to-treat tumors,” said Stephen A. Baylin, M.D., professor and deputy director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University and leader of the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) Epigenetics Dream Team. “This study appears to show the first durable successes in solid tumors with epigenetic therapy.”

This drug combination has previously shown efficacy among with leukemia.

“We hope these results lead to a larger, more definitive clinical trial of this drug combination,” said Charles Rudin, M.D., Ph.D., professor of oncology and director of the Upper Aerodigestive Cancer Program at Hopkins’ Kimmel Cancer Center. Rudin led the team of physicians and cancer biologists who conducted the study.

This research is funded in part by SU2C, a Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute.

“This research would not have been possible, especially at this accelerated pace, without Stand Up To ,” said Baylin. “Our SU2C Dream Team has benefitted enormously from the initiative’s vision and visibility. The funding helps leverage other support mechanisms, like our SPORE grant from the NCI, which could never separately fund a trial of this magnitude and scope. It has enabled incredibly fruitful collaborations and allowed us, most importantly, to make a real difference in peoples’ lives.”

Explore further: Vaccine for metastatic breast, ovarian cancer shows promise

Related Stories

Vaccine for metastatic breast, ovarian cancer shows promise

November 8, 2011
Treatment with a recombinant poxviral vaccine showed a positive response in both metastatic breast cancer and ovarian cancer, according to a trial published in Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association ...

Recommended for you

Researchers unravel novel mechanism by which tumors grow resistant to radiotherapy

November 23, 2017
A Ludwig Cancer Research study has uncovered a key mechanism by which tumors develop resistance to radiation therapy and shown how such resistance might be overcome with drugs that are currently under development. The discovery ...

African Americans face highest risk for multiple myeloma yet underrepresented in research

November 23, 2017
Though African-American men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, most scientific research on the disease has been based on people of European descent, according to a study ...

Encouraging oxygen's assault on iron may offer new way to kill lung cancer cells

November 22, 2017
Blocking the action of a key protein frees oxygen to damage iron-dependent proteins in lung and breast cancer cells, slowing their growth and making them easier to kill. This is the implication of a study led by researchers ...

One-size treatment for blood cancer probably doesn't fit all, researchers say

November 22, 2017
Though African-American men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with a blood cancer called multiple myeloma, most scientific research on the disease has been based on people of European descent, according to a study ...

One in four U.S. seniors with cancer has had it before

November 22, 2017
(HealthDay)—For a quarter of American seniors, a cancer diagnosis signals the return of an old foe, new research shows.

Combination immunotherapy targets cancer resistance

November 22, 2017
Cancer immunotherapy drugs have had notable but limited success because in many cases, tumors develop resistance to treatment. But researchers at Yale and Stanford have identified an experimental antibody that overcomes this ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.