Advanced MRI Scan May Predict Chemotherapy Benefit In Late Stage Ovarian Cancer Patients After Just One Cycle

Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden Hospital have developed an advanced type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan that can detect whether late-stage ovarian cancers are responding to chemotherapy treatment after just one cycle.

Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and The Royal Marsden Hospital have developed an advanced type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan that can detect whether late-stage ovarian cancers are responding to chemotherapy treatment after just one cycle, which should help doctors decide whether to continue or alter treatment.

Most ovarian cancers are detected after the tumor has already spread and although patients initially respond well to radical surgery and platinum and taxane-based chemotherapy, most relapse after an average of 18 months. Subsequent treatments generally become less effective as patients build up resistance, so scientists are looking for ways to identify non-responsive patients early in the course of treatment.

Diffusion MRI Diagnostics: Diffusion tensor imaging color map (Photo: Wikipedia)

Nandita deSouza, M.D., Ph.D., Lead Academic Radiologist, The Institute of Cancer Research & The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

In a paper published online this week in the journal Radiology, Professor Nandita deSouza and colleagues at the ICR and The Royal Marsden find that a technique called diffusion -weighted MRI can be used to show a change after just one 21- or 28-day treatment cycle.

“This test could allow us to predict after just one month whether a patient will benefit from the full six month course of chemotherapy,” Senior author Professor de Souza from the ICR and The Royal Marsden says. “This would help make decisions on treatment and mean that patients could avoid the unpleasant side-effects of ineffective treatments.”

From November 2008 to September 2010, forty-two women with ovarian cancer had diffusion-weighted MRI scans before and after their first and third cycles of chemotherapy. Each scan was then used to calculate a figure called an Apparent Diffusion Coefficient (ADC), a measurement of water movement within tissue, which is lower in tumor compared to normal tissue. The team found ADCs rose after just one treatment cycle for many women who were later assessed to have benefited from treatment, and did not change for patients who did not respond.

The MRI technique can also help determine the extent of the cancer, as it is able to detect tiny cancer seedlings that have spread from the ovaries into the peritoneum. Importantly, Professor de Souza says that the scans also have the potential to identify individual tumor deposits that are not responding to treatment for which other treatment options including surgical removal can be considered.

First author Dr. Stavroula Kyriazi from the ICR and The Royal Marsden says: “We will be starting a larger trial in four UK hospitals later this year that will assess this technique alongside the current blood tests and scans. We hope to find that it consistently detects the effects of treatment earlier, and that it provides more information about individual tumor sites than standard tests. This test can be done on existing MRI equipment, so if it is found to be effective it could potentially be used to help doctors make treatment decisions for their patients right across the country.”

The research was carried out at the Cancer Research UK and EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) Cancer Imaging Centre, Research Data Management and Statistics Unit and Department of Gynecological Oncology at the ICR and The Royal Marsden. The study was funded by Marie Curie Actions, the ICR, Cancer Research UK and EPSRC.

Dr. Julie Sharp, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “We hope that this new approach will allow doctors to monitor tumors much more closely in the future and make quicker decisions if treatments aren’t working. Advanced ovarian cancer is difficult to treat and we’re pleased to be funding the next stage of this research that will develop this test further.”

The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)

  • The ICR is Europe’s leading cancer research center.
  • The ICR has been ranked the UK’s top academic research centre, based on the results of the Higher Education Funding Council’s Research Assessment Exercise.
  • The ICR works closely with partner The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust to ensure patients immediately benefit from new research. Together the two organizations form the largest comprehensive cancer center in Europe.
  • The ICR has charitable status and relies on voluntary income.
  • As a college of the University of London, the ICR also provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction.
  • Over its 100-year history, the ICR’s achievements include identifying the potential link between smoking and lung cancer which was subsequently confirmed, discovering that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer and isolating more cancer-related genes than any other organization in the world.
  • The ICR is home to the world’s leading academic cancer drug development team. Several important anti-cancer drugs used worldwide were synthezised at the ICR and it has discovered an average of two preclinical candidates each year over the past five years.

For more information visit www.icr.ac.uk.

About the Royal Marsden Hospital

The Royal Marsden opened its doors in 1851 as the world’s first hospital dedicated to cancer diagnosis, treatment, research and education.

Today, together with its academic partner, The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), it is the largest and most comprehensive cancer center in Europe treating over 44,000 patients every year. It is a center of excellence with an international reputation for groundbreaking research and pioneering the very latest in cancer treatments and technologies. The Royal Marsden also provides community services in the London boroughs of Sutton and Merton and in June 2010, along with the ICR, the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust launched a new academic partnership with Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in Middlesex.

Since 2004, the hospital’s charity, The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, has helped raise over £50 million to build theatres, diagnostic centres, and drug development units. Prince William became President of The Royal Marsden in 2007, following a long royal connection with the hospital.

For more information, visit www.royalmarsden.nhs.uk.

About Marie Curie Actions

The EU’s Marie Curie Actions provide grants at all career stages from post-graduate level to encourage international mobility among Europe’s best researchers. Every year, through the Marie Curie Actions, the EU gives 8,000 researchers the opportunity to work abroad and stimulates partnerships between research and business. The EU will allocate more than €4.5 billion under the scheme between 2007 and 2013. A total of 50,000 researchers have been supported by the Marie Curie Actions since 1996.

For more information, visit http://ec.europa.eu/research/mariecurieactions/.

About Cancer Research UK

  • Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
  • The charity’s groundbreaking work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives. This work is funded entirely by the public.
  • Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival rates double in the last forty years.
  • Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to beat cancer.

For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7121 6699 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org.

Sources:

  • Kyriazi S, et. al. Metastatic Ovarian and Primary Peritoneal Cancer: Assessing Chemotherapy Response with Diffusion-weighted MR Imaging–Value of Histogram Analysis of Apparent Diffusion Coefficients. Radiology. 2011 Aug 9. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 21828186.
  • Scan Predicts Chemotherapy Benefit After Just One Cycle, Press Release, The Institute of Cancer Research, August 12, 2011.

Inherited Mutations in RAD51D Gene Confer Susceptibility to Ovarian Cancer

Cancer Research UK-funded scientists have discovered that women who carry a faulty copy of a gene called RAD51D have almost a 1-in-11 chance of developing ovarian cancer. The finding that inherited mutations in the RAD51D gene confer susceptibility to ovarian cancer was reported in a study published online in Nature Genetics on August 7, 2011.

Cancer Research UK-funded scientists have discovered that women who carry a faulty copy of the RAD51D gene have nearly a 1-in-11 chance of developing ovarian cancer. The finding that inherited mutations in the RAD51D gene confer susceptibility to ovarian cancer was reported in a study published online in Nature Genetics on August 7, 2011.

(Photo: Cancer Research UK)

Although hereditary faults in RAD51D are thought to account for less than one in every hundred ovarian cancer cases – fewer than 60 women every year in the UK – this discovery could prove very important in the future in connection with the prevention and treatment of the disease in women who carry the faulty gene.

The team at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) examined DNA from women from 911 families with ovarian and breast cancer and compared differences in DNA with a control group of 1,060 people from the general population.

The team discovered eight germline (inherited) gene faults in the RAD51D gene in women with cancer, compared with one in the control group.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women with approximately 6,500 cases diagnosed annually in the UK. The researchers estimate that RAD51D gene faults are present in almost one percent of women with ovarian cancer; that is, around 50 UK women each year.

Around one woman in 70 in the general population is at risk of developing ovarian cancer, but for those with a RAD51D gene fault this risk is increased to 1-in-11 – making these women six times more likely to develop the disease. The RAD51D gene fault also caused a slight increase in the risk of breast cancer.

The RAD51D gene is important for repairing damaged DNA. When the RAD51D gene is faulty, a key DNA repair pathway known as “homologous recombination” (HR) fails. This means DNA damage is not fixed and DNA faults build up in cells which make them more likely to turn into cancer.

The UK team also showed that cells with faulty RAD51D can be selectively destroyed by a relatively new class of cancer drugs called “PARP (poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase) inhibitors.” When the researchers tested the drugs on cells with the faulty RAD51D gene, they observed a dramatic effect – nearly 90 percent of the cells died, compared with just 10 percent of cells with fully functional RAD51D. These drugs are showing great promise in clinical trials for the treatment of breast and ovarian cancers with faults in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are also important for repairing damaged DNA.

Professor Nazneen Rahman

Cancer Research UK-funded scientist and study author Professor Nazneen Rahman, head of the Division of Genetics and Epidemiology at The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden cancer center, said:

“Women with a fault in the RAD51D gene have a 1-in-11 chance of developing ovarian cancer. At this level of risk, women may wish to consider having their ovaries removed after having children, to prevent ovarian cancer from occurring. There is also real hope on the horizon that drugs specifically targeted to the gene will be available.”

Professor Nic Jones

Professor Nic Jones, Cancer Research UK’s chief scientist, said:

“It’s incredibly exciting to discover this high risk gene for ovarian cancer. It’s further evidence that a range of different high risk genes are causing the development of breast and ovarian cancer and we hope there are more waiting to be discovered in different cancers. We believe the results of this research will help inform personalized treatment approaches and give doctors better information about risks of cancer to tell patients.”

Harpal S. Kumar, CEO, Cancer Research UK

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said:

“Survival from ovarian cancer has almost doubled in the last 30 years. This landmark discovery is another piece of the jigsaw deepening our understanding of the disease. We hope this will have a significant impact in providing more personalised treatments for patients based on their genetic make-up, saving more lives from ovarian cancer. All of our research is generously funded by the public. This support has allowed us to invest heavily in the identification of DNA changes which paint a picture of which parts of a person’s gene set are linked to cancer. This life-changing discovery exemplifies the importance of this research and the importance of ongoing public support.”

Again, it is important to stress that faults in the RAD51D gene are rare, probably causing fewer than one in every 100 ovarian cancers. Yet for the small proportion of women who carry a faulty RAD51D gene, there is a chance of developing ovarian cancer, thereby making it a significant new finding.

Cancer Research UK is the largest single funder of ovarian cancer research in the UK – last year it spent more than £12 million of public donations on tackling the disease.

The RAD51D gene mutation study findings in relation to ovarian cancer susceptibility add to past evidence which links the gene to the disease. On April 21, 2010, Libby’s H*O*P*E*™ reported that a team of German researchers determined that RAD51C also increases a woman’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer.  Specifically, the identified risk for breast cancer in women with the RAD51C mutation was reported to be 60 percent to 80 percent, while the identified risk for ovarian cancer was 20 percent to 40 percent.

On November 11, 2010, we also reported that a separate group of U.K. researchers concluded that (i) HR-deficient status can be determined in primary ovarian cancer through a “RAD51 assay,” and (ii) such status correlates with in vitro response to PARP inhibition. Accordingly, the researchers concluded that potentially 50 percent to 60 percent of ovarian cancers patients could benefit from PARP inhibitors, but they noted that use of the RAD51 assay as a biomarker requires additional clinical trial testing. Although the RAD51 assay test that was used by these U.K. researchers to examine tumor samples in the laboratory is not yet suitable for routine clinical practice, the U.K. research team hopes to refine it for use in patients.

Sources:

About Cancer Research UK

  • Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
  • The charity’s groundbreaking work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives. This work is funded entirely by the public.
  • Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival rates double in the last forty years.
  • Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to beat cancer.

For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020-7121-6699 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org

About The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)

  • The ICR is Europe’s leading cancer research center.
  • The ICR has been ranked the UK’s top academic research center, based on the results of the Higher Education Funding Council’s Research Assessment Exercise.
  • The ICR works closely with partner The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust to ensure patients immediately benefit from new research. Together the two organisations form the largest comprehensive cancer centre in Europe.
  • The ICR has charitable status and relies on voluntary income.
  • As a college of the University of London, the ICR also provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction.

Over its 100-year history, the ICR’s achievements include identifying the potential link between smoking and lung cancer which was subsequently confirmed, discovering that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer and isolating more cancer-related genes than any other organization in the world.

For more information visit www.icr.ac.uk

About The Royal Marsden

  • The Royal Marsden is a world-leading cancer centre specializing in cancer diagnosis, treatment, research and education.
  • The Royal Marsden is also partners with The Institute of Cancer Research. Through this partnership, it undertakes groundbreaking research into new cancer drug therapies and treatments. The partnership makes The Royal Marsden the biggest and most comprehensive cancer center in Europe, with a combined staff of 3,500.

PARP Inhibitor Olaparib Benefits Women With Inherited Ovarian Cancer Based Upon Platinum Drug Sensitivity

Olaparib (AZD2281), a new type of cancer drug known as a “PARP inhibitor,” produced promising results in patients with platinum-refractory, platinum-resistant, and platinum-sensitive ovarian cancer linked to an inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.

A new type of cancer drug — known as a “PARP inhibitor” — produced promising results in patients with ovarian cancer linked to an inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. The trial results were published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology on April 19th.

Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and The Royal Marsden Hospital, working with pharmaceutical company KuDOS Pharmaceuticals, now a subsidiary of AstraZeneca, found the experimental drug olaparib shrank or stabilized tumors in approximately half of ovarian cancer patients possessing BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations.

The five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer is just 40 per cent as the majority of patients are diagnosed with an advanced form of the disease. Most patients initially respond well to radical surgery and platinum and taxane-based chemotherapy, but relapse after an average of 18 months. Subsequent treatments generally become less effective as patients build up resistance.

Professor Stan Kaye, Head of Section of Medicine, Institute of Cancer Research; Head of Drug Development Unit, The Royal Marsden Hospital; and Cancer Research UK-funded scientist

“There is an urgent need to find new drugs for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer,” says Professor Stan Kaye, Head of the Section of Medicine at the ICR and Head of the Drug Development Unit at The Royal Marsden Hospital and a Cancer Research UK-funded scientist. “Olaparib is still in early-stage testing but the results so far are very encouraging. These findings raise the possibility that carefully selected patients in future may well be offered olaparib as an alternative to chemotherapy during the course of their treatment.”

Between 2005 and 2008, about 50 women with confirmed or suspected BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations began treatment with olaparib in a dose escalation and single-stage expansion of a Phase I trial. Twenty patients responded with their tumors shrinking or with significant falls in their ovarian cancer marker CA125, or both. The disease also stabilized in three patients. The drug was effective for an average of seven months. Notably, several patients are still taking olaparib (for nearly two years). Drug side-effects were generally mild, especially when compared to current chemotherapy treatments.

Olaparib is a new type of drug known as a PARP inhibitor that works by turning a tumor’s specific genetic defect against itself. In susceptible cells, olaparib prevents the repair of naturally occurring breaks in DNA, which healthy cells are able to repair. Susceptible cancer cells – those with an existing defect in a DNA repair pathway caused by a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes – are unable to repair themselves, and therefore, die.

Platinum-based chemotherapy, particularly carboplatin, is one of the main treatments used for ovarian cancer. When this treatment ceases to be effective, theoretically, olaparib might be less effective too, so the ICR scientists examined whether olaparib would still benefit patients whose response to previous platinum-based drugs was limited. Finding new drugs to treat these “platinum-resistant” ovarian cancer patients (those who relapsed within six months of previous platinum therapy) is a particularly high priority as they have a lower chance of benefiting from re-treatment with chemotherapy and a poorer prognosis.

The research team found that the clinical benefit rate with olaparib was indeed higher — 70% — among patients with “platinum-sensitive disease” (disease recurrence more than six months after previous platinum therapy). Crucially, however, the clinical benefit rate was still 46% in platinum resistant patients.

ICR Study Findings:

  • 50 patients participated in the study (13 had platinum-sensitive disease, 24 had platinum-resistant disease, and 13 had platinum-refractory disease (according to platinum-free interval).
  • 20 patients (40%) achieved complete or partial responses under RECIST (Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors) criteria and/or tumor marker (CA125) responses.
  • Overall clinical benefit rate (complete response + partial response + stable disease) = 46%.
  • Median response duration was 28 weeks.
  • There was a significant association between the clinical benefit rate and platinum-free interval across the platinum-sensitive, resistant, and refractory patient subgroups (69%, 45%, and 23%, respectively).
  • Analyses indicated associations between platinum sensitivity and extent of olaparib response.
  • CONCLUSION: Olaparib has antitumor activity in BRCA1/2 mutation ovarian cancer, which is associated with platinum sensitivity.

Up to 15 per cent of breast and ovarian cancers have known BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations on blood testing and, importantly, laboratory data strongly suggests that olaparib may also be effective in cancers linked to DNA repair defects not caused by BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. This could apply in about half the cases of the most common histological type of ovarian cancer.

“We have good reason for thinking that the benefit seen with olaparib in BRCA mutation-linked ovarian cancer may well extend to a broader population of patients with this disease,” says Professor Kaye.

Randomised trials of olaparib – in which some patients receive the drug and others a placebo – are underway and results will be available later this year.

KuDOS Pharmaceuticals (a wholly owned subsidiary of AstraZeneca) was the major funder of the trial, along with Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research. Olaparib was identified and developed at KuDOS Pharmaceuticals and subsequently at AstraZeneca.

PARP Inhibitor Clinical Trials:

To view a list of open ovarian cancer clinical trials that are testing olaparib (AZD2281), click here.

To view a list of open solid tumor clinical trials that are testing olaparib (AZD2281), click here.

To view a list of open ovarian cancer clinical trials that are testing various PARP inhibitors, click here.

To view a list of open solid tumor clinical trials that are testing various PARP inhibitors, click here.

About The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)

* The ICR is Europe’s leading cancer research centre.

* The ICR has been ranked the UK’s top academic research centre, based on the results of the Higher Education Funding Council’s Research Assessment Exercise.

* The ICR works closely with partner The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust to ensure patients immediately benefit from new research. Together the two organisations form the largest comprehensive cancer centre in Europe.

* The ICR has charitable status and relies on voluntary income, spending 95 pence in every pound of total income directly on research.

* As a college of the University of London, the ICR also provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction.

* Over its 100-year history, the ICR’s achievements include identifying the potential link between smoking and lung cancer which was subsequently confirmed, discovering that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer and isolating more cancer-related genes than any other organization in the world.

* The ICR is home to the world’s leading academic drug development team. Several important anti-cancer drugs used worldwide were synthesised at the ICR and it has discovered an average of two preclinical candidates each year over the past five years.

For more information visit www.icr.ac.uk.

About The Royal Marsden Hospital

The Royal Marsden opened its doors in 1851 as the world’s first hospital dedicated to cancer treatment, research and education. Today, together with its academic partner, The Institute of Cancer Research, it is the largest and most comprehensive cancer centre in Europe treating over 40,000 patients every year. It is a centre of excellence, and the only NHS Trust to achieve the highest possible ranking in the Healthcare Commission’s Annual Health Check for the third year in a row. Since 2004, the hospital’s charity, The Royal Marsden Cancer Campaign, has helped raise over £43 million to build theatres, diagnostic centres, and drug development units. Prince William became President of The Royal Marsden in 2007, following a long royal connection with the hospital.

For more information, visit www.royalmarsden.nhs.uk

About Cancer Research UK

* Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading charity dedicated to beating cancer through research.

* The charity’s groundbreaking work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives. This work is funded entirely by the public.

* Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival rates double in the last thirty years.

* Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of more than 4,800 scientists, doctors and nurses.

* Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to beat cancer.

For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7121 6699 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org

About Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)

Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) status has been awarded to 19 centres in the UK that are specialist centres conducting research into new cancer treatments. The aim is to bring together cancer doctors, research nurses and lab scientists to make clinical trials of new treatments quicker and easier. The ECMC initiative is funded by Cancer Research UK and the Departments of Health of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Together they are giving a total of £35 million pounds over five years to the 19 centres. The centres will use this money to run trials of new and experimental treatments. They will also analyse thousands of blood and tissue samples (biopsies) to help find out more about how treatments work and what happens to cancer cells.

Sources: