Trojan Horse approach to cancer therapy shows promise

A new form of cancer fighting drug has been developed using the principles of the “Trojan Horse”. The drug is carried in by the carriers and this allows them to penetrate into the tumours and attack them from within explain researchers. This could be beneficial in several types of cancers that are generally resistant to treatment with conventional anti-cancer therapy.

The findings of the early Phase I/II global clinical trials of this new drug have been reported in the journal The Lancet Oncology.

New ‘Trojan horse’ cancer treatment shows early promise in multiple tumour types. Image Credit: Morphart Creation, Salon of 1874, Painting. - The Trojan Horse, by Motte
New ‘Trojan horse’ cancer treatment shows early promise in multiple tumour types. Image Credit: Morphart Creation, Salon of 1874, Painting. - The Trojan Horse, by Motte

The drug Tisotumab Vedotin (TV) has been shown to enter within the tumour and kill the cancer cells selectively. This stops the tumour from growing and shrinks them. Results have been encouraging in trial patients;

  • 27 percent of patients with bladder cancer
  • 26.5 percent of patients with cervical cancer
  • 14 percent of patients with ovarian cancer
  • 13 percent of patients with esophageal cancer
  • 13 percent of patients with non-small cell lung cancer
  • 7 percent of patients with endometrial cancer

Benefits were not seen among patients with prostate cancer, write the researchers. The clinical trials for TV were conducted by a team of researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research, London, and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. Initially only 27 patients were recruited to look at the safety of the drug and then as it was proven to be safe and well tolerated, a further 120 patients with various cancers were included. Results showed that patients responded for up to 9.5 months maximum (average of 5.7 months).
Lead researcher Professor Johann de Bono in a statement said, “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.”

The drug TV carries with it the active component called monomethyl auristatin E that when released inside the tumour prevents its cells from multiplying. De Bono explained, “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.”

The researchers explain that several cancers are resistant to existing treatment expecially when they begin to spread. This new therapy might help scientists develop effective anti-cancer therapies they add. De Bono added, “We have already begun additional trials of this new drug in different tumor types and as a second-line treatment for cervical cancer, where response rates were particularly high. We are also developing a test to pick out the patients most likely to respond.”

Cancer killed 9.6 million people last year says World Health Organization making it a leading killer worldwide. The WHO adds that around half of the cancer deaths are preventable.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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