Novel Drug Action Against Solid Tumors Explained

Editor’s note: This article describes new research that shows how a drug called ADI-PEG20 targets and kills cancer cells. ADI-PEG20 is currently being studied in clinical trials with volunteer patients who have melanoma, liver cancer, and prostate cancer.

“Researchers at UC Davis, City of Hope, Taipai Medical University and National Health Research Institutes in Taiwan have discovered how a drug that deprives the cells of a key amino acid specifically kills cancer cells.

“Their paper, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the culmination of nearly a decade of research into the role of arginine – and its deprivation – in the generation of excessive autophagy, a process in which the cell dies by eating itself…”

“Primo Lara, UC Davis oncologist and associate director of translational research at the cancer center, led a phase I study of the drug in patients with advanced lung, prostate and oral cancers. He reported that combined with a chemotherapy agent, the drug was feasible and reasonably tolerated. He is currently recruiting advanced prostate cancer patients for a new phase I trial of the drug combination.”

New Cancer Drug ADI-PEG 20 May 'Starve Out' Mesothelioma

Early promising results are emerging for ADI-PEG 20, a new cancer drug that breaks down arginine. Arginine is an amino acid—a building block for proteins—that is necessary for cell function. Normal cells can produce their own arginine, but many tumor cells cannot. By depriving the body of arginine, ADI-PEG selectively disrupts cancer cells. In a phase II clinical trial, ADI-PEG prolonged the time without cancer progression in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer. Almost half of the patients had a partial response to the drug, defined as their tumors shrinking at least 30%.