Prague, Czech Republic: One of the first studies to investigate the effects of a new anti-cancer drug in patients with advanced or metastatic solid tumours has shown that it is capable of halting progression of the disease, and the study has provided the first proof of the drug's mechanism of action.
The drug works by blocking aurora proteins, which play a key role in cell division and are implicated in the onset and progression of cancer. It was discovered and characterised by scientists at Nerviano Medical Sciences in Italy.
Dr Maja de Jonge, a medical oncologist at the Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, told the EORTC-NCI-AACR  Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in Prague today (Wednesday 8 November): "So far we have tested the drug in 36 patients in a phase I clinical trial. All the patients had advanced solid cancers that were progressing at the time they entered the trial. However, in seven of these patients the disease stabilised and has remained stable in four of the patients for seven months or more. Without the drug we would have expected to see their disease continue to progress."
Aurora proteins belong to a family of enzymes that regulate the different steps in mitosis when the cell nucleus divides into two identical cells. The enzymes help the dividing cell to share its genetic material between the daughter cells, and they are essential for cell proliferation. Aurora proteins are over-expressed in cancer and this causes unequal distribution of the genetic material, creating abnormal cells the hallmark of cancer. However, it is only recently that scientists have started to investigate the proteins as targets for anti-cancer therapies, and this is one of the first studies to investigate an aurora kinase inhibitor in patients.
Dr de Jonge and her colleagues tested an aurora kinase inhibitor PHA-739358. Her patients had a range of solid tumours: colorectal
Contact: Emma Mason
European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer