New UVM Mesothelioma Clinical Trial


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Researchers from the University of Vermont believe they have developed a promising new approach to treating a rare type of cancer. An anticipated new pleural mesothelioma clinical trial at the UVM Cancer Center involves a novel drug, RSO-021. The drug works by inhibiting a tumor cell’s ability to manage its toxic waste byproduct.

University Labels Mesothelioma Clinical Trial “First-of-Its-Kind”

Treatment for malignant mesothelioma could soon receive a facelift as researchers at the University of Vermont label a new approach a “first-of-its-kind.” Investigators will collect data for a novel drug, RSO-021, in an upcoming Phase 1 clinical trial set to begin later this year.

Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer largely caused by occupational asbestos exposure. The disease often develops in the outer mesothelial lining of the lungs, called the pleura. Mesothelioma only affects about 3,000 people each year in the United States. This limits the efforts in developing better treatment options.

Few FDA-approved treatment options are currently available to patients, and the five-year survival rate is about 10 percent. Often, mesothelioma patients rely on new clinical studies when standard treatments fail.

Lead clinical researcher Dr. Brian Cunniff and his research team collaborated with Wake Forest School of Medicine and RS Oncology to collect pre-trial data over the last four-and-a-half years. Researchers believe the treatment approach can be suitable for human delivery after the collected data showed anti-cancer activity.

According to Dr. Cunniff, the drug “takes away the ability of cells to metabolize toxic byproducts, so they essentially choke on their own exhaust.”  If successful, the approach may significantly reduce tumor size.

Data collected using the targeted therapy will determine the safety and activity of the approach. The clinical trial will launch at the Cuniff Lab at the University of Vermont Cancer Center in England. 

Researchers Hope to Broaden Possibilities of Cancer Treatment

Researchers hope the data will determine whether the targeted therapy can be used for other cancers: “There’s significant data in pre-clinical models that indicate this approach could have broad applicability to many cancer types. Until we have sufficient data from the phase 1 clinical trial, it will be difficult to fully understand the possibilities of this approach, although there is considerable optimism,” said Cunniff.

Discovering new treatment options through mesothelioma clinical trials is typically challenging. The study of RSO-021 therapy for mesothelioma treatment will be a first for humans after effective results appeared in laboratory and mice models over the last several years. Dr. Cunniff is optimistic about this potentially beneficial approach.

The mesothelioma clinical trial will treat patients with a direct application of the drug to the tumor site. The study will continue well into 2022.

Few treatment options are currently available to treat malignant mesothelioma, and the FDA approved only two since 2004. While there is no cure for it, researchers are constantly studying new therapies that can extend the life of cancer patients. The low survival rate for pleural mesothelioma past 5 years keeps researchers motivated in the discovery of new treatments. For now, Dr. Cunniff and the team hope to positively impact patients in this upcoming mesothelioma clinical trial.

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