Last week, at the World Conference on Lung Cancer, Dr. Raffit Hassan presented promising data on a novel agent, anetumab ravtansine, also known as BAY 94-9343. Anetumab ravtansine is an antibody-drug conjugate directed against the target molecule mesothelin which is highly expressed on mesotheliomas.
“Anetumab ravtansine shows encouraging efficacy in patients with advanced mesothelioma which warrants further study,” stated Dr. Hassan, a senior investigator and the head of the Thoracic and Solid Tumor Immunotherapy Section at the National Cancer Institute who has been working on developing mesothelin targeted therapies for patients with mesothelioma and other cancers for the last two decades.
This was a phase I study to determine the safety and activity of anetumab ravtansine in patients with cancer who had failed standard therapies. Based on early results of this trial more mesothelioma patients were enrolled to better define the activity of this drug in patients with pleural mesothelioma who had progressed on chemotherapy. Out of the 16 mesothelioma patients treated at the maximum tolerated dose, 5 (31%) had objective tumor shrinkage while 7 (44%) had stable disease. However, out of the 10 mesothelioma patients who received anetumab ravtansine as second line therapy 5 (50%) had objective tumor shrinkage and 4 (40%) had stable disease. In most patients the tumor response was very durable with three patients still receiving the drug more than 2 years after starting therapy.
Antibody-drug conjugates (also known as ADCs) are a new class of drugs that function by linking a particular antibody to a cancer-fighting drug. When combined, the antibody precisely targets the cancer cell, delivering the drug directly to it, thus avoiding extensive damage to healthy cells typical of traditional chemotherapies.