Erlotinib, a targeted anti-tumour agent, has shown promising potential to improve treatment for cervical cancer in a new clinical study.
Results from the study, published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, indicate that larger trials are warranted to determine whether the drug should become part of standard therapy for women with the disease.
Cisplatin-based chemoradiation is the standard therapy for locally advanced cervical cancer. Disadvantages to this therapy however include unpredictable and brief treatment responses. The new treatment strategy involves targeting the epithelial growth factor receptor (EGFR), which is frequently over-expressed in cervical cancer. Inhibiting this receptor is known to have anti-tumour effects against a variety of cancers.
Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer among females. Every year nearly half a million new cases of cervical cancer are reported worldwide. Despite the widespread use of screening programs and the advent of vaccines against human papilloma virus (HPV), cervical cancer is still a significant public health problem.
Angélica Nogueira-Rodrigues, MD, PhD, of the Brazilian National Cancer Insitute, and her colleagues designed a phase 2 clinical trial to test the potential of the EFGR inhibitor erlotinib combined with chemoradiation therapy in 36 women with cervical cancer. Median duration of therapy was 77 days and median follow-up time was 59.3 months.
34 patients (94.4 percent) achieved a complete response (the disappearance of all cancerous lesions). After two years, 91.7 percent of women were alive, and 80.6 percent experienced no progression of their disease. After three years, 80 percent of women were alive, and 73.8 percent experienced no disease progression.
“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. Nogueira-Rodrigues. “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.”