Bowel cancer breakthrough new treatment is ‘significant’

Chris Evans discusses bowel cancer and Deborah James' death

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In these tests the drug has been found to have a “significant and clinically meaningful” impact on patient life and extended the life expectancy for those with metastatic bowel cancer.

Metastatic cancer occurs when cancer spreads from one part of the body to the other. In the case of metastatic bowel cancer, it has spread from the bowel to other parts of the body.

Patients with this condition who participated in the trial had a life expectancy of around four and a half months if they didn’t take fruquitinib. However, the patients who did saw this almost double to close to seven and a half months.

While this is only a small improvement in the wider context, those extra months give patients the opportunity to spend more time with the family and friends. As a result, this improvement is not without significance. Leaders of the programme explain further.

Professor Cathy Eng, lead on the international trial and co-principle investigator said: “Our positive findings in this heavily pretreated patient population who had received a median of five prior lines of therapy noted an improvement of 2.6 months relative to the control for overall survival as well as a difference of 1.9 months progression-free survival.”

Professor Eng added: “I am delighted that Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center co-led this global trial. Our findings clearly demonstrate the benefit of single agent oral fruquintinib for overall survival and progression-free survival in previously treated metastatic colorectal patients.

“We look forward to the submission to the FDA and the European Medicines Agency for a global indication as well as new upcoming trials in combination with fruquintinib”

The hope is that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration of the United States) will approve the drug for use by patients; this could be followed by the NHS should it decide fruquitinib is worth its efficacity.

Meanwhile, fruquitinib hasn’t been the only new treatment developed for this aggressive form of bowel cancer.

A team of researchers from the City of Hope says it has identified an effective combination of immunotherapy for a small group of patients with metastatic bowel cancer.

Although an unlikely name for a health organisation, the City of Hope is one of the largest cancer research organisations in the United States, one aiming to bring hope to patients through the development of new treatments.

They say they have found a novel combination of immunotherapy can help patients with a recurrent form of metastatic bowel cancer. The group, constituting just 29 patients in the trial, received a combination of immunotherapy – ipilimumab and nivolumab – and a therapy known as regorafenib.

Of the 22 patients whose cancer had not spread to the liver, over 50 percent are still alive after 20 minutes. The other seven, meanwhile, survived for just over seven months.

Discussing the study, co-director of the City of Hope’s Gastrointestinal Cancer Programme Marwan Fakih said: “The combination immunotherapy regimen shows remarkable activity in metastatic microsatellite stable patients without liver metastases, a patient population previously regarded as nonresponsive to immunotherapeutic strategies.

“To see a response rate of 40% and median overall survival exceeding 20 months in refractory colorectal cancer without liver metastatic disease patients is unprecedented.”

Fakih said in a previous study they had noted there had been a modest benefit when treating metastatic cancer using niolumab and regorafenib.

Fakih added: “Our data confirms the importance of the tumor microenvironment in shaping the response to immunotherapy. Patients without liver metastatic disease can respond to a combination of checkpoint inhibitors, plus a small molecule VEGR tyrosine kinase inhibitor, as we have shown with our regimen.”

While only a small number of patients will benefit from this treatment if it becomes available in the coming years, the research conducted by developing it could help to save the lives of other bowel cancer patients.

Although the research has been conducted and published in the United States, given the prevalence of bowel cancer in the UK, it is highly relevant.

Symptoms of the condition to look out for include:
• Persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
• Blood in the poo without the other symptoms of piles
• Abdominal pain, discomfort, or bloating always brought on by eating.

The most important thing about bowel cancer is to get checked if a symptom arises which is troubling. Although it may be not be cancer, it is far better to get checked just in case so the disease can be ruled out.

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