Early promise for first targeted brain cancer treatment
A new drug could become the first ever targeted brain cancer treatment, with encouraging early results from a phase 1 trial suggesting it could treat some patients with advanced disease.
The trial is being funded by Basilea Pharmaceutica International Ltd., who developed lisavanbulin, and the work is supported by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR).
Paul Nicholson, 37 from Brighton, was diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2017 and joined the Basilea trial in 2018 at The Royal Marsden. Three years later, the treatment is still working, and Paul’s cancer has shrunk by over 80%. He said:
“For months before my diagnosis, I had been experiencing headaches, seizures and altered vision, with my friends noticing a shift in my personality as I’d become snappier. I was admitted to A&E after collapsing at home. Scans revealed a tumour the size of a fist in my head and, following surgery, cancer was confirmed two weeks later. It was incredibly upsetting for me and my wife to hear that my estimated life expectancy was just over one year – our son, Teddy, had been born six months earlier.
“I was then treated with radiotherapy and chemotherapy which didn’t work, so it was a massive relief to join this trial. At my initial screening, I was told there was a 5% chance the drug would work but, amazingly, my scans are still looking good.
“I wasn’t allowed to use my driving license for a few years following my diagnosis, but I got it back last year which has been brilliant. I bought a campervan and, though we haven’t been able to take it abroad yet, we recently went to Legoland and the Cotswolds with Teddy. I’m lucky to still be here and I want to share as many experiences as possible with my family while I can.”
Image below: Paul Nicholson with his family
Study leader Dr Juanita Lopez, Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and Clinical Researcher at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said:
“We are in a new era of personalised medicine, with markers in cancer cells offering vital clues to what treatment could target an individual’s disease. This encouraging early study suggests some patients with advanced brain cancer who are EB1-positive could be treated with lisavanbulin, a targeted drug which blocks the growth of cancer cells.
“We believe that our findings could be a key step in the development of the world’s first targeted brain cancer treatment, offering hope to some patients with aggressive glioblastoma. People with brain cancer currently have very poor survival rates and lack treatment options, so this could be a very welcome addition to our limited arsenal of tools to combat the disease.”