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Cancer drug trial may offer hope to mesothelioma patients

Scientists at the Cancer Research UK Southampton Clinical Trials Unit and the University of Leicester have announced a new clinic trial of a drug called a PARP inhibitor, which may extend the lives of mesothelioma patients. The same team previously studied immunotherapy survival rates for people diagnosed with mesothelioma.

PARP inhibitors have already improved survival rates of patients with breast and ovarian cancers that carry specific mutations. The drug works by blocking a protein that repairs damaged DNA in cancer cells, causing the cancer cells to die. Currently only five per cent of people with mesothelioma survive five years following diagnosis.

The director of the trial said that research into other treatment options, in addition to just active symptom control, is desperately needed. Mesothelioma patients whose tumours have progressed following chemotherapy will be invited to join the trial because they are more likely to be susceptible to a PARP inhibitor. They will be given a drug called niraparib.

A small, previous study showed that mesothelioma does respond to this type of drug. If the trial is successful, it would extend the life expectancy of patients following initial chemothereapy.

Mavis Nye, campaigner and long-time friend of the Fieldfisher mesothelioma team, has lived with mesothelioma for more than 10 years, having been exposed to asbestos by washing her husband's work clothes.

Mavis was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2009 and took part in a previous clinical trial for an immunotherapy treatment that shrank her cancer. But a recent scan has shown that the disease is returning slowly. She said:

 “I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that the only treatment now left for me is chemotherapy. We desperately need more research into better treatments for this disease. I just love being involved in research, and it is wonderful that I can play a small part in the NERO trial; if not for me then for other mesothelioma patients in the future.”

The NERO trial will involve 84 patients who have already had chemotherapy treatment at UK hospitals. Patients will have a 2:1 chance of receiving niraparib. Those who do not receive it will be closely monitored for signs of early tumour growth so that they can receive an alternative treatment if necessary.

NERO is funded by Asthma and Lung UK and developed in collaboration with Mesothelioma UK, with additional support from Cancer Research UK core funding at the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit.
 

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