A Phase II clinical trial led by cancer researchers at Ohio State University in the US has demonstrated the positive effects of selumetinib in people with advanced biliary cancer, a malignancy of cells lining the bile ducts and gall bladder.
Selumetinib, also known as AZD6244, belongs to a class of drugs called protein-kinase inhibitors. It blocks a protein called MEK, which cancer cells need to proliferate and survive.
The University of North Carolina, Vanderbilt University and Emory University, all in the US, also participated in the trial, which involved 28-patients, 17 of which showed no tumour growth for up to 16 weeks.
Patients who lacked a target protein called pERK did not respond to the drug, suggesting that the drug may not work if the protein is missing in the cancer cells.
Dr Tanios Bekaii-Saab, principal investigator and medical director of gastrointestinal oncology at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center-James Cancer Hospital, said that the study provides ground to develop selumetinib in larger trials in combination with other drugs, to establish a new standard of care for biliary cancers.
“The findings suggests that in the future we may be able to identify which patients are most likely to respond to the drug,” Bekaii-Saab added.