First patient receives treatment in trial of ‘resistance-busting’ skin cancer drug

The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London is conducting the skin cancer clinical trial

A patient has become the first person to receive a ‘resistance-busting’ skin cancer drug, with the start of the first phase of a clinical trial.

The patient was given a panRAF inhibitor – a new type of drug under development to address the problem of drug resistance in advanced skin cancer and a number of other cancer types.

PanRAF inhibitors block several key cancer-causing proteins at once including BRAF, which is associated with about half of all melanomas. Existing BRAF inhibitors are designed to block that protein, but most patients develop resistance to them within a year.

The first patient has begun treatment at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, with patients also to be treated at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester.

Twenty-five patients with advanced, solid tumours – focusing on advanced melanoma – will be recruited for the trial with the aim of establishing the safe maximum dose for a planned phase two clinical trial.

The trial is the culmination of a research programme to design, synthesise and develop the new drug class, led by scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, and the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute at the University of Manchester.

It is starting just three months after an article in the journal Cancer Cell stated that the drug had the potential to treat melanomas – the most serious type of skin cancer – that do not respond or have become resistant to existing therapies.

Dr James Larkin, consultant medical oncologist at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, who is leading the clinical trial, said: ‘The major problem with current targeted therapies is resistance to treatment. This drug has been developed in the laboratory specifically to tackle this problem and we are very excited to be treating the first patient in this clinical trial.’

Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute director Richard Marais, who leads on the institute’s research programme on panRAF inhibitors, said: ‘This trial is the culmination of over a decade of research,’ he said. ‘BRAF drugs can give valuable extra months of quality life to about half of melanoma patients, but sadly it is not a cure and most patients eventually develop resistance. These new drugs are engineered to get around this problem by shutting down the routes that tumours use to bypass BRAF drugs. They work very well in the laboratory and we look forward to now seeing if they also work well in patients.’

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