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Novel Drug Targets Mesothelioma Tumors

mesothelioma cancer

There is an expanding body of medical research suggesting that certain peptides can selectively recognize cancer tumors and can be used in targeted therapy to shrink and suppress them. An Italian biotechnology company announced  today promising clinical trial results of an anti-tumor drug NGR-h TGF used to treat malignant pleural mesothelioma and lung cancer. Pleural mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs associated with inhaling asbestos.

In a press release, MolMed S.p.A., headquartered in Milan, Italy, said three drug trials involving administration of NGR-h TGF to patients with pleural mesothelioma and lung cancer, indicate that the drug can be used safely and displays promising anti-tumor activity with six different types of tumors. Medical researchers are presenting the trial results at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference June 3-7 in Chicago.

NGR-h TGF consists of a human tumor necrosis factor combined with a tumor-homing peptide that responds to certain chemicals that are overexpressed in tumor blood vessels. Essentially, the drug recognizes tumors by their vascular architecture.

In the phase II trial, mesothelioma patients who had failed a chemotherapy regimen involving pemetrexed received an infusion of NGR-h TGF every week or every three weeks. The drug was effective in controlling the growth of mesothelioma tumors in 46 percent of the patients. The median length of time the drug was effective in controlling the disease was about 4.7 months. It was more effective when administered weekly and was generally tolerated well by patients.

“These are important results, because this evidence, together with the lack of cumulative toxicity led us to explore a new treatment options for NGR-h TNF as maintenance therapy,” Claudio Bordignon, MolMed’s chairman and CEO, said in a press release.

MolMed is launching a randomized phase II clinical trial exploring the medication’s effectiveness as maintenance therapy for mesothelioma patients, who have completed pemetrexed-based chemotherapy.

The trial will enroll 100 patients and investigate the effects of NGR-h TNF in extending the disease control benefits attained with chemotherapy. Recent experiences involving patients with non-small cell lung cancer have shown that a maintenance treatment given immediately after chemotherapy can extend the lives of patients free of cancer.

Approximately 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the U.S. Many mesothelioma patients are workers who were exposed to asbestos in a workplace earlier in their lives, even if they weren’t aware of it. Asbestos was widely used in building materials, insulation automotive parts and other industrial products.  Symptoms of mesothelioma including shortness of breath, cough, difficulty swallowing and weight loss typically take 20 to 40 years to appear.

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