Targeting tumor blood supply could improve treatment of cervical cancer

A recent Cancer Research UK-funded study led by researchers at the University of Leicester (UK) indicates that the addition of cediranib to standard chemotherapy could provide a new effective treatment modality for patients with recurrent cervical cancer.

Current survival rates for patients with recurrent or secondary cervical cancer in Europe are poor; chemotherapy results in tumor shrinkage in 20–30% of patients and many are associated with a life expectancy of >1 year subsequent to treatment.

Paul Symonds from the Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine at the University of Leicester explained: “Cancers develop their own blood supply and cancers of the cervix with a well developed blood supply can have a particularly bad outcome for the patient.”

He continued: “One of the substances which increase new blood vessels in cervical cancer is VEGF. The experimental drug cediranib blocks the receptor for VEGF in the cancer, potentially limiting its growth in the body. Targeting the tumor blood supply seems the way forward to increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy in cervical cancer.”

The study compared two groups of patients with recurrent or secondary cervical cancer. One group received standard chemotherapy with carboplatin and paclitaxel, and the second group were treated with this conventional chemotherapy plus either cediranib or a placebo.

Shrinkage of tumors varied markedly between the two treatment groups. Patients who were treated with standard chemotherapy plus cediranib displayed tumor shrinkage of 66%, compared with 42% in those treated with standard chemotherapy and the placebo. In addition to this, there was also an increase in median progression-free survival rates in patients who had received chemotherapy combined with cediranib.

The next objective for the team is to conduct individual patient analyses to evaluate outcome and VEGF levels. Symonds added: “We will also be looking at different biomarkers. We want to find out why a significant number of patients live far longer than we thought they would.”

Source: University of Leicester press release