New drug could help in battle against cervical cancer

By | October 26, 2014

A Cancer Research UK-funded UK study led by researchers at the University of Leicester, with key collaborators from the Universities of Glasgow, Manchester and Edinburgh, has discovered that adding the investigational agent cediranib, which has been developed by the multinational pharmaceutical and biologics company AstraZeneca, to standard chemotherapy may be beneficial for patients with metastatic or recurrent cervical cancer and could pave the way for future treatment of the disease.

Professor Paul Symonds from the Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine at the University of Leicester and a consultant at Leicester’s Hospitals, explained: “Cancers develop their own blood supply and cancers of the cervix with a well-developed blood supply can have a particularly bad outcome for the patient.

“One of the substances which increase new blood vessels in cervical cancer is Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF). The experimental drug cediranib blocks the receptor for VEGF in the cancer, potentially limiting its growth in the body. Targeting the tumour blood supply seems the way forward to increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy in cervical cancer.”

The study compared two groups of patients with recurrent or secondary cervical cancer given conventional chemotherapy — carboplatin and paclitaxel — plus either cediranib or an identical looking placebo tablet.

Patients who received chemotherapy and cediranib had greater tumour shrinkage, 66 per cent versus 42 per cent, than those treated by chemotherapy and a placebo and there was an increase in median progression-free survival rates.

The study was supported by Cancer Research UK as an Investigator-Sponsored Study at the Leicester Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre, part of a UK-wide network of centres jointly funded by Cancer Research UK and the four UK health departments, and the UK National Cancer Research Network Phase II Collaboration with AstraZeneca. It was co-sponsored by NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde and the University of Glasgow. The study was co-ordinated by the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit, Glasgow.

Professor Symonds says that the next stage of the research will be to conduct an individual patient analysis to look at outcome and VEGF levels, suggesting: “We will also be looking at different biomarkers. We want to find out why a significant number of patients live far longer than we thought they would.”

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