New Combo Therapy Shows Promise For Cervical Cancer Treatment
March 10, 2014

New Combo Therapy Shows Promise For Cervical Cancer Treatment

Bret Smith for - Your Universe Online

A team of Brazilian scientists has identified a promising new combination treatment that targets cervical cancer, according to a new report published in the journal Cancer.

Patients with locally-advanced cervical cancer are typically prescribed cisplatin-based chemoradiation therapy (CRT), yet the benefits of this treatment have largely gone unresearched since the late 1990s, the study authors claimed.

In search of a new treatment strategy, the study team looked to develop a treatment that targets epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) – which is highly prevalent in patients with cervical cancer. Targeting the receptor has been shown to be effective in the treatment of other cancers.

The study team discovered that erlotinib, an existing anti-tumor agent that targets EGFR, does have the potential to unset CRT as the standard cervical cancer treatment.

"While cervical cancer is a neglected disease and very few clinical trials have been reported in the last 10 years, some groups, including ours, have reported that its biology might be prone to targeted therapy," said Dr. Angélica Nogueira-Rodrigues, an author of the new study and researcher at the Brazilian National Cancer Institute (INCA). "To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to present that a targeted agent has promising activity in the management of locally advanced cervical disease."

To reach their conclusion, the study team conducted a phase II trial on the therapeutic use of erlotinib in combination with cisplatin-based CRT in 36 women between the ages of 18 and 70 years old who had advanced forms of cervical cancer. The trial researchers administered treatment for a median of 77 days, and conducted a follow-up period for a median duration of more than 59 months.

All traces of cervical cancer were effectively removed by the treatment in 94 percent of patients. Two years after treatment, nearly 92 percent of patients were still alive and almost 81 percent did not see their disease advance. One year later, 80 percent of participants were still alive and nearly 74 percent did not have their disease progress.

By comparison, the standard CRT treatment lowers mortality risk by 30 to 50 percent for patients who are also undergoing radiation therapy.

The study team called for additional studies to investigate the effectiveness of the new treatment and assess the presence of potential biomarkers for the disease.

"In this context, a recent study has identified EGFR mutations in 36 percent of cases of squamous cell cervical cancer," the team wrote. "However, this observation requires further confirmation and needs to be coupled with a thorough molecular characterization of cervical cancer to implement rational and efficacious targeted therapy for this disease."

Nogueira-Rodrigues said the novel treatment may be added to the standard treatment regimen for locally advanced cervical cancer if future trials confirm her study's results.

A study published in January revealed a therapeutic target for cervical cancer – a gene known as CDKN3. When researchers blocked the gene in cultured cancerous cells, it greatly diminished their proliferation.