The drugs, which are a pair used together to block the signals the cancers use to grow, could bring a new form of treatment for women with a type of ovarian cancer that hardly responds to chemotherapy or hormone therapy. Experts have said that the early trial’s results have proved to be highly effective, referring to them as “fantastic”. The Phase 1 trial was presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology congress, and successful phase 2 trial is reportedly underway.
The researchers are now hoping that this will lead to a significant advance in treatment if the results are repeated in larger trials.
The phase 1 trial was led by a team at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.
They tested the drugs VS-6766 and defactinib in patients with low-grade serous ovarian cancer.
Experts said this type of cancer is seen more commonly in younger women.
Less than 13 percent of patients with this cancer typically respond to chemotherapy and less than 14 percent respond to hormone therapy.
Results from the trial show that of the 24 patients involved, 46 percent saw their tumours shrink significantly.
In patients with a particular mutation, results proved to be even more successful.
Up to 64 percent of those who have KRAS-driven tumours saw them shrink after treatment.
The researchers said this suggested that tumour profiles could be used to identify which patients are most likely to benefit from the new treatment.
They also said those taking part in the trial –who were aged between 31 and 75 – lived for an average of 23 months before their cancer progressed.
Professor Kristian Helin, the chief executive of the ICR, said: “Overcoming cancer’s ability to evolve resistance to treatment is a huge challenge for cancer research.
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“This study has turned a deep understanding of how cancer fuels its growth and develops resistance into a highly targeted treatment for patients who currently have few treatment options.”
Dr Susana Banerjee, also from the ICR and consultant medical oncologist and research lead at the Royal Marsden’s gynaecology unit, said: “If these findings are confirmed in larger trials, they’ll represent a significant advance in low-grade serous ovarian cancer treatment.”
The combination treatment also worked even in patients who had already received an MEK inhibitor.
This is something which can cause tumours to shrink, but becomes less effective as tumours develop resistance to treatment.
Dr Banjeree said: “I am delighted that this drug combination has worked so well in a group of patients who are in urgent need of new treatments, including those who have previously been treated with a MEK inhibitor.
“We’re very hopeful that this could become the standard of care for women with low-grade serous ovarian cancer.”
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In another trial at the European Society for Medical Oncology congress, a new drug to treat a form of breast cancer was hailed as a “groundbreaking” trial , with results reportedly showing a strong chance of improved survival rates
Ovarian cancer mainly affects women who have been through the menopause (usually over the age of 50), but it can sometimes affect younger women.
There are around 7,400 new ovarian cancer cases in the UK every year, that’s 20 every day.
Overall, around half of women with ovarian cancer will live for at least 5 years after diagnosis, and about 1 in 3 will live at least 10 years.