Basilea Announces Start of Phase 2a Study with Oncology Drug Candidate BAL101553

“Basilea Pharmaceutica Ltd. (SIX: BSLN) reports today that it initiated a phase 2a study with its investigational oncology drug BAL101553. The study is designed to further characterize safety and tolerability, and to obtain efficacy data in adult patients with advanced or recurrent solid tumors who have failed standard therapy or for whom no effective standard therapy is available. Tumor types were selected based on clinical observations in the phase 1 study and a detailed analysis of potential patient stratification biomarkers across tumor indications. The study will also continue the extensive biomarker testing initiated in Phase 1, to further evaluate dose and patient populations most likely to respond.”

Editor’s note: A drug company is starting a clinical trial to test a new cancer drug called BAL101553 in volunteer patients. The trial is enrolling people with advanced or recurrent solid tumors, including people with colorectal cancer, gastric cancer or cancers of the gastro-esophageal junction, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), ovarian cancer (or primary peritoneal), pancreatic cancer (including ampullary), and triple-negative breast cancer. Specifically, the trial is open to patients who have tried a standard treatment without benefitting or who, for whatever reason, have no effective standard treatment available to them. BAL101553 has already shown promise for some patients in a phase I trial. The new trial will continue to examine the safety and effectiveness of the drug, and it will also test patients’ tumors for specific biomarker molecules to see if patients with certain biomarkers are more likely to benefit.


New Transdermal SARM Drug for Muscle-Wasting Offers Hope for Older Cancer Patients

Muscle wasting that occurs as a result of cancer negatively impacts the well-being and recovery prospects of millions of patients, particularly the rapidly-growing elderly populations in Western societies. Drugs called selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) offer hope for these patients, and a new SARM for transdermal administration is promising excellent efficacy without harming liver function and HDL levels. Results and conclusions were presented Tuesday at the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society: ICE/ENDO 2014 in Chicago.

SARMs are able to stimulate the growth of muscle with effects similar to those seen by use of traditional anabolic steroids but without the undesirable side effects of those established muscle-building drugs, in particular, the adverse effects on prostate health that can occur from their use.

Editor’s note: As stated above, drugs called SARMs may help counteract harmful muscle loss that occurs as a result of cancer in elderly patients. A new SARM was recently studied in the lab and in mice. Scientists say that it shows promising ability to stimulate growth of muscle, without harming liver function and without lowering blood levels of a molecule called HDL. Clinical trials to test the drug in volunteer patients will be needed to determine if the drug will help people with cancer.


Don't Believe the Daily Express, It Takes a Lot More Than Carrots to Beat Cancer

Another story about how some food holds the cure for cancer is making headlines in the Daily Express. This time the saviour is the humble carrot. But it isn’t its first time in the limelight. In March, the Daily Mail claimed that eating carrots is a way to avoid prostate cancer. But, as is the case more often than not, the scientific study published in the European Journal of Nutrition reveals that there is little data to make the claim whether the purported effect was specific to carrots more than any other vegetable.

“Many studies suggest that consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of a variety of cancers. But the charity organisation Cancer Research UK stresses, ‘the link between diet and cancer is complex and difficult to unravel’. That is an important caveat. There is little chance that the key to preventing one of the world’s deadliest diseases has been on our dinner plates the whole time.”


Commission on Cancer Identify “Top 5” Tests, Treatments to Question

“It is with an eye toward improved patient care and better outcomes that various medical specialties have willingly undertaken the self-censure of weeding out the potentially unnecessary tests, treatments and procedures in their fields of medicine.

“Through the ABIM foundation’s Choosing Wisely initiative, organizations from several medical specialties have been composing lists of medical tests, procedures and therapies that practitioners and patients may be wise to question.

“Because time is of the essence in cancer diagnosis and treatment, it is particularly important to not waste it with testing and/or treatment that may not be necessary or beneficial. To this end, the Commission on Cancer (CoC) lists the following tests/treatments to question.”


BPA Stimulates Growth of Breast Cancer Cells, Diminishes Effect of Treatment

BPA

“Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical commonly used in plastics, appears to increase the proliferation of breast cancer cells, according to Duke Medicine researchers presenting at an annual meeting of endocrine scientists.

“The researchers found that the chemical, at levels typically found in human blood, could also affect growth of an aggressive hormone-independent subtype of breast cancer cells called inflammatory breast cancer and diminish the effectiveness of treatments for the disease.

” ‘We set out to determine whether routine exposures to common chemicals such as those in plastics, pesticides and insecticides could influence the effectiveness of breast cancer treatments,’ said corresponding author Gayathri Devi, Ph.D., associate professor of surgery at Duke. ‘BPA was one of the top chemicals to show growth stimulatory effects in breast cancer cells.’ “


Continued Event-Free Survival Benefit of Neoadjuvant/Adjuvant Trastuzumab in HER2-Positive Locally Advanced Breast Cancer

The gist: A recent clinical trial found that the drug trastuzumab (Herceptin) improves survival and lowers the risk of recurrence for women with HER2-positive, locally advanced breast cancer. Patients in the trial received Herceptin as part of both neoadjuvant (before surgery) and adjuvant (after surgery) treatment. The researchers followed the patients for five years after treatment.

“As reported by Gianni et al in The Lancet Oncology, long-term follow-up of women with HER2-positive locally advanced breast cancer receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy alone vs with neoadjuvant and adjuvant trastuzumab (Herceptin) in the phase III NOAH trial has shown continued event-free survival benefit of trastuzumab treatment and a strong association of event-free survival with pathologic complete response rate in trastuzumab recipients.

“In this open-label trial, 235 women with HER2-positive locally advanced or inflammatory breast cancer were randomly assigned to receive neoadjuvant chemotherapy alone (n = 118) or with 1 year of trastuzumab given concurrently with neoadjuvant chemotherapy and continued after surgery. (A parallel group with HER2-negative disease received neoadjuvant chemotherapy alone; outcomes in this group are not reported here.)”


Future of Cancer Treatments

“The news spurred hundreds of phone calls and emails to Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada from across the country: Two Stage 4 cancer patients at the Las Vegas center, after participating in the first human trial of an antibody drug with the unwieldy code name of MPDL 3280A, were now cancer-free.

“Rosemary Rathbun, 78, had been so far gone with throat cancer that doctors told her to enroll in hospice. Lorrine Rodgers, 56, had been told there were no other treatments for her spreading breast cancer.

“That their cancer disappeared, the women said in January, was a miracle.”

Editor’s note: This story is a great overview of an increasingly promising type of cancer treatment called immunotherapy. Immunotherapy treatments boost a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer.


Future of Cancer Treatments

“The news spurred hundreds of phone calls and emails to Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada from across the country: Two Stage 4 cancer patients at the Las Vegas center, after participating in the first human trial of an antibody drug with the unwieldy code name of MPDL 3280A, were now cancer-free.

“Rosemary Rathbun, 78, had been so far gone with throat cancer that doctors told her to enroll in hospice. Lorrine Rodgers, 56, had been told there were no other treatments for her spreading breast cancer.

“That their cancer disappeared, the women said in January, was a miracle.”

Editor’s note: This story is a great overview of an increasingly promising type of cancer treatment called immunotherapy. Immunotherapy treatments boost a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer.


Drug Combo May Knock Down Lung Cancer

“Some drug-resistant cancers of the lung, pancreas and breast might be made vulnerable again by treating them with a medication already approved for another type of cancer, according to a new study led by scientists at UC San Diego.

“Researchers at UCSD Moores Cancer Center said they plan to start a clinical trial to test the use of Velcade for lung cancer in about six months. This quick start is possible because the drug is currently on the market, said Dr. Hatim Husain, an author of the study who is designing the clinical trial. For more information about the trial, call (858) 822-5182.”

Editor’s note: Clinical trials can be important treatment options for some patients. This one might be particularly appropriate for people who have taken the drug Tarceva (erlotinib) but became resistant to it. The drug combination being tested in this clinical trial has previously shown disappointing results, but the researchers are hopeful that by using molecular testing to identify patients who are more likely to benefit, they may be able to successfully use the treatment. Learn more about clinical trials here.