The latest success concerning a treatment for non- small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has scientists and researchers hopeful that the same treatment can be applied to mesothelioma victims. The Phase III trial for Alecensa (alectinib), while currently not recruiting participants, is on-going and results thus far have shown to be promising for those with NSCLC.
Alectinib is currently a treatment for ALK-positive NSCLC patients who have found the treatment Xalkori (crizotinib) to be ineffective. This latest clinical trial demonstrated the effectiveness of the new drug as a “first line treatment” and researchers concluded it produced better results than crizotinib. Phase III of clinical trials is the last phase that typically compares promising new drugs and procedures with the current standard of treatment. Large numbers of people from across the nation usually participate in Phase III trials and receive either the new treatment or the standard treatment.
ALK, or anaplastic lymphoma kinase, is an enzyme encoded by the ALK gene. ALK is linked to cancer growth so checking for this gene in tumor tissue can help to plan cancer treatment. According to Phizer, three to five percent of people with NSCLC may test positive to for ALK. Many treatment plans for lung cancer and mesothelioma are similar, so researchers are hopeful that that patients suffering from mesothelioma who have also tested positive for ALK, can use Alecensa as a first line treatment. Once the medication is given orally, Alecensa goes to work by blocking the activity of ALK, essentially slowing down cell growth which prevents the tumor from spreading.
Malignant mesothelioma is a devastating cancer caused by breathing in or ingesting asbestos fibers. Treatment options are often difficult and limited as the long latency period between asbestos exposure and illness typically means the cancer is in the advanced stages by the time symptoms appear and at the time of diagnosis. However, similarities between mesothelioma and lung cancer have given scientists and researchers more outlets and possibilities to explore and experiment. The goal for Alecensa is to possibly become the new standard of treatment for ALK-positive NSCLC patients.
Daniela Semedo, Ph.D, “Alecensa Improves Progression-Free Survival in Certain Lung Cancer Patients,” Lung Cancer News Today (April 6, 2017). [Link]