The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center recently announced the opening of the first of a series of clinical trials that will study the efficacy of combinations of immunotherapy drugs for the treatment of lung cancer. The Neptune Phase 3 clinical trial, “Study of 1st Line Therapy Study of MEDI4736 With Tremelimumab Versus SoC in Non Small-Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) (Neptune)”, sponsored by AstraZeneca, is now recruiting patients.
Standard care for lung cancer currently consists of chemotherapy involving a platinum drug and another drug. But such treatment methods don’t yield very encouraging results; they shrink or stop tumor growth in only 40 to 50 percent of the patients. And chemotherapy, whose positive effects are often short-lived, comes with debilitating effects for the patient and an average survival period of 13 months after diagnosis.
A new area in cancer treatment is now gaining attention due to promising results in the clinic. Immunotherapy medicines are a new class of drugs that target the patient’s immune cells in order to stimulate them to fight cancer. These drugs tend to be more specific, and generally do not harm the normal and healthy cells.
The Neptune trial is one of the first studies evaluating immunotherapy drugs as a first line of treatment instead of the second treatment after chemotherapy. The trial will test a combination of two immunotherapy drugs, durvalumab and tremelimumab, developed by AstraZeneca. These drugs are “immune checkpoint inhibitors” and act in different ways to reinforce the action of immune cells, namely by preventing cancer cells from shutting down the immune system, affecting immune cells in a long-lasting effect.
The trial will enroll non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients and divide them into two groups. One will receive the immunotherapy drug combination and the other will receive standard of care (chemotherapy). Primary outcomes will be the assessment of efficacy compared to the standard therapy and assessment of overall survival.
Previous data from phase 1 and 2 studies with this drug combination yielded promising results, with nearly half the people responding to the treatment, often for long periods of time, and with manageable side effects.
The Neptune trial will be led by Dr. Yanis Boumber, assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. “The advantage of a [clinical] trial is it gives you an opportunity to get additional therapy that you cannot get with the standard of care treatments. And these drugs have been tested for the last five years. They’re safe and very technologically advanced,” Boumber said in a press release.
For more information about the Neptune clinical trial and how to participate, please visit this link.