"They were undoubtedly hoping that progression-free survival would be longer, maybe four or five months, and overall survival would be six or eight months," Bunn said. "The results were not encouraging. Their basic conclusion is that we should find something better for these patients, and not spend a lot of time on a big randomized trial to show it has a teeny effect or no effect."
In addition, sorafenib was not compared to other drugs, or even to no treatment, Lichtenfeld said, so there is no way of gauging if the 2.3 months represents a true benefit above and beyond what patients would experience otherwise.
A second study done on non-small cell cancer cells and mice with the KRAS mutation showed more promise, experts said.
In it, researchers tested the drug ganetespib, which inhibits the Hsp90 protein. When combined with other cancer drugs, ganetespib seems to affect multiple other proteins present in the cancer cell that help the cancer cell thrive, Lichtenfeld said.
"The presence of this protein [Hsp90] really directs or impacts many proteins within the cancer cell that are necessary for it to survive," Lichtenfeld said. "If you can block that protein's effect, you then have other proteins that are blocked, and by blocking them you could shut down the cancer cell and severely impact the cell and its growth patterns. That is interesting and exciting from a laboratory point of view."
However, Lichtenfeld noted, "the problem we always face is translating what we see in the laboratory to clinical medicine. There are so many times we have promising and exciting findings in the laboratory that don't translate into patients, but occasionally they do."
The next step will be larger trials involving cancer patients, Bunn said.
"I would say this other approach is more promising than the sorafenib, and certainly
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