Mesothelioma Treatment Researchers Deserve Praise for Ingenuity

Say what you like about the quantity of mesothelioma treatment research, but you’ll have to admit the quality is remarkable. In fact, it’s ingenious.

It seems like every week there’s news of mesothelioma researchers figuring out another innovative approach for attacking the cancer. Case in point: the targeted mesothelioma treatment drug FP-1039/GSK3052230.

Chances are, FP-1039/GSK3052230 is a mesothelioma treatment you’ve never heard of until now. The novel thing that it does is trap FGF ligands.

Inhibits Angiogenesis the Growth of Mesothelioma Lung Cancer

Here’s why that’s helpful — and clever. For starters, mesothelioma and other cancers grow with the help of a process known as angiogenesis.

Angiogenesis is the means by which new blood vessels develop. Mesothelioma needs more and bigger blood vessels so that it can feast on ever larger amounts of nutrients. The more it eats, the more it grows.

Angiogenesis works in part through a chemical process powered by angiogenic proteins. One of these proteins is FGF, which stands for fibroblast growth factor.

FGF plugs itself into receptacles on the surface of mesothelioma cells. When this plug-in occurs, the FGF causes a signal to be sent out. The signal activates genes and sets off an assortment of biological responses.

All of this then creates the conditions necessary to grow endothelial cells and fibroblasts, the building blocks of new blood vessels.

FP-1039/GSK3052230, however, is a protein that breaks up this FGF signaling. It does so by trapping FGF ligands and preventing them from ever plugging into those cell-surface receptacles.

OK, they’re not really called receptacles, like the electrical outlet socket in your wall – they’re actually called receptors. But they work largely the same way.

If the FGF fails to connect to the cell, there won’t be the juice to power angiogenesis. No angiogenesis, no mesothelioma cell growth. Simple, but clever.

Mesothelioma Lung Cancer Clinical Trial Underway

FP-1039/GSK3052230 is currently in the second half of a phase 1 clinical trial. The trial at this stage is intended to help researchers figure out the correct dose that mesothelioma patients should receive.

By “correct dose,” the investigators mean the dose that is both effective and safe. As of early August, 176 patients were enrolled in the trial. The trial is still accepting patients, in case you’re interested.

The enrolled patients are receiving weekly infusions of FP-1039/GSK3052230 and the chemotherapy agent paclitaxel.

The patients have been split into three arms. Two are patients with squamous non-small cell lung cancer, not mesothelioma. The third group has untreated and unresectable malignant pleural mesothelioma.

The mesothelioma patients have been receiving cisplatin mixed in with the paclitaxel. The lung cancer patients, meanwhile, have been getting their paclitaxel with either docetaxel or carboplatin.

The trial has been underway for a while now, so the researchers conducting it have some initial results. Those results were shared at the recent World Conference on Lung Cancer 2015 in Denver.

The bottom line was that 20 percent of the patients responded positively to the mesothelioma treatment. That might not sound like a big deal.

But keep in mind that the researchers at this early stage are mainly interested in whether the drug is safe. In clinical trials to come, the response rate could be much higher once the treatments begin in earnest and the researchers have a larger cohort of patients with whom to work.

In this safety trial, the lung cancer patients took well to the medication. No dose-limiting toxicities were seen among them. However, dose-limiting toxicities did show up in three of the mesothelioma patients.

The researchers expect to report complete results of the phase 1 trial sometime next year.

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline owns the rights to FP-1039/GSK3052230. Those rights have been licensed to Five Prime Therapeutics, Inc., of South San Francisco, CA. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City is a main player in the lung cancer trial.