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New drug combination shows promise for ovarian cancer patients in early trial

20 September 2021

A new combination of ovarian cancer drugs that shrinks low-grade serous ovarian cancer tumours has shown promising results in early clinical trials. Low-grade serous ovarian cancer is a rare, slow growing type of epithelial cancer that usually affects younger women, which typically does not respond well to current treatments.

What did the trial show?

The FRAME trial led by the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust tested the drugs, called VS06766 and defactinib, in 25 patients aged between 31-75 and saw nearly half of their tumours shrink significantly. The trial also saw participants living an average 23 months before their cancer progressed. 

The drugs worked particularly well in those with a KRAS gene mutation, tumours with this mutation are much harder to treat. The KRAS gene helps to control cell signals which promotes cell growth. Approximately around a quarter of all types of cancers have a mutation in the KRAS gene, which can lead to uncontrolled cell growth and cancer. The combination of drugs works by blocking these signals, preventing the tumour from growing.

How could the next trial help to tackle treatment resistance?

The results from this initial stage trial are so promising that the phase two trial is already underway to see if the drugs continue to shrink tumours in more patients. If the next stage of testing is successful, this could be a significant advance in treatment for a group of patients with substantial unmet need. 

The treatment continued to work in patients who had already received a MEK inhibitor before participating in the study, a drug that stops a growth mechanism in cells that can become overactive in some cancers which commonly stops working as tumours develop resistance to it. The research team will see if further drug combinations in this next stage trial could offer a new treatment option for ovarian cancer patients who develop resistance.

“This is a promising step forward for more effective treatments in a group of women with unmet need, which could mean more women with ovarian cancer living longer. This is a great example of the clinical research needed to help advance treatment options for women with ovarian cancer, where progress still significantly lags behind other cancers”

Cary Wakefield, Ovarian Cancer Action CEO

Read about how OCA’s new nationwide research trial BriTROC-2 is working to create new, personalised treatments for women with ovarian cancer here