Two drugs could soon be used together to treat the most aggressive form of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is an incurable cancer with very few options for treatment. Chemotherapy and immunotherapy can be used to extend patients’ lives, but they cannot be used to completely cure the disease. There is still hope though because new treatments are constantly being tested to try to find better ones. Two compounds already being used for other types of cancer could potentially be a new, better treatment used for mesothelioma. They have already been found to be effective when tested in other cancers, so mesothelioma patients might benefit from using these treatments as well.
This study is a result of unexpected findings during other research. When doctors were looking at tumor suppressor genes for bladder cancer in mice, an aggressive form of sarcomatoid mesothelioma developed in the mice. No bladder cancer tumors grew before the mesothelioma tumors, but this could have been the result of the mesothelioma tumors being very fast growing. When trying to determine the cause of the rapid spread of the cancer cells, MEK/ERK and PI3K had enhanced activity. Researchers were able to block these pathways with MEK and P13Kbeta inhibitors, which reduced the invasive and aggressive qualities of mesothelioma cells in the mice.
The next step in the study is to find the appropriate drugs that would inhibit the correct proteins in humans, which are Selumetinib, which inhibits MEK, and AZD8186, which inhibits P13Kbeta. The first thing that researchers did was find the right protein inhibitors by figuring out the proteins that were altered in mice, which were then matched to human proteins. A combination of drugs that is effective in mice and humans was then found. Drugs that were already being tested on other cancers were chosen because their toxicity was already known, making it easy to start the trials soon.
MEK and PIK3beta show enhanced activity in other tumors, which could carry over into mesothelioma tumors. The researchers will be comparing their results to results from other clinical trials.