In Case You Missed It, Researchers May Have Discovered a New Method to Treat Cancer

Source: ImmunoGen.

It's worth noting, though, that Kadcyla also had a recent setback in its MARIANNE study. Kadcyla performed on par in terms of median progression-free survival with the control combo of Herceptin and a taxane chemotherapy in first-line indications when Wall Street was clearly looking for a statistical advantage for Kadcyla. Chances are still good that Kadcyla will be a critical cancer-fighting drug for years to come.

Hypoxia drugs

Hypoxia-targeting drugs are another unique therapy currently working their way through clinical studies.

Generally, when healthy cells are formed, blood vessel growth can keep pace, leaving everything in a sort of harmony. However, since tumor growth occurs without rhyme or reason, it can occasionally outpace blood vessel growth, leaving certain regions of a tumor starved for oxygen, or hypoxic. Hypoxia-targeted drugs focus in on these low-oxygen regions and attack. Because hypoxia is rarely witnessed in healthy cells, it should result in minimal healthy cell death.

The name to watch here is Threshold Pharmaceuticals and its lead hypoxia compound TH-302. It's currently being examined in 10 clinical studies (mostly early stage) with the three most intriguing being a mid-stage study for non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer, a late-stage study for soft tissue sarcoma, and the MAESTRO trial examining TH-302 in combination with Gemzar as a treatment for pancreatic cancer. This last study is particularly critical as pancreatic cancer has few effective treatment options.

Cancer immunotherapies

Lastly, drug developers are working on a new class of drug that looks to enhance the body's immune system so it can better recognize and fight cancer.

One of the reasons cancer is so difficult to kill is that it has developed an effective mechanism to hide itself from the immune system. A late-stage drug known as bavituximab being developed by Peregrine Pharmaceuticals is looking to change that.

Source: Peregrine Pharmaceuticals.

Peregrine's bavituximab is a phosphatidylserine (PS)-targeting monoclonal antibody that's looking to turn the tables on non-small cell lung cancer in a trial as a second-line treatment. Generally, healthy cells express PS on the inside of their cellular wall, protecting them from the body's immune system. However, this immunosuppressive molecule is found on the outside of cancer cells and protects the cancer cell from attack by the immune system. Bavituximab aims to block this immunosuppressive response and allow the immune system to do its work.

Although Peregrine's midstage study wasn't without a lot of unneeded drama , bavituximab led to a median overall survival of 11.7 months in phase 2 trials compared to just 7.3 months for the docetaxel control group.

Headed in the right direction

Between the findings by researchers at Virginia Tech and the aforementioned three pathways, it's apparent we're on the right path to improving patient quality of life and, hopefully, survival. I look forward to ongoing research that looks at new ways to deliver chemotherapy in a safer and more directed manner, and to the development of new treatments that extend patients' lives.

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The article In Case You Missed It, Researchers May Have Discovered a New Method to Treat Cancer originally appeared on Fool.com.

Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen nameTMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen nameTrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle@TMFUltraLong.The Motley Fool recommends ImmunoGen. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days . We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

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