The options for treating mesothelioma are currently limited. With immunotherapy and chemotherapy, the lives of most patients can be extended by only a few months. However, Gaurav Pandey, Nick Landman, and Jitendra Badhai have successfully tested a new combination of existing drugs in the laboratory of Maarten van Lohuizen: zoledronic acid and tazemetostat. Their research shows that these drugs disrupt two important mechanisms in tumor cells with a specific genetic mutation called BAP1.
Approximately 60% of all asbestos cancer patients have tumors with the BAP1 genetic mutation. They would therefore be eligible for the new treatment, if it ultimately proves to work in humans. So far, the new combination of drugs has only been tested in animal models and on individual cells in the laboratory. The results are promising. In mice with mesothelioma, the growth of cancer cells was greatly reduced by treatment with zoledronic acid and tazemetostat.
The NKI is setting up a clinical trial in partnership with pharmaceutical industry partners to bring the combination to the clinic as quickly as possible. “If these drugs also prove to work well in clinical trials, we can offer patients a new and hopefully better treatment option,” says Jitendra Badhai. “It is also an advantage that these are existing drugs that are not particularly expensive. This treatment will therefore certainly be cheaper. That is important for people who live in countries where not everyone has health insurance coverage for expensive treatments such as immunotherapy and chemotherapy.”
This research was funded by Oncode Institute and KWF Dutch Cancer Society