Lurbinectedin is being studied in a number of diseases, but in lung cancer it has a more favorable side effect profile compared with topotecan, said Apar Kishor Ganti, MD, University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Lurbinectedin is being studied in a number of diseases, but in lung cancer it has a more favorable side effect profile compared with topotecan, said Apar Kishor Ganti, MD, professor of internal medicine, Division of Oncology & Hematology, University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Are there other tumor types where lurbinectedin seems to hold promise?
So, lurbinectedin is being studied in other diseases like breast cancer, mesothelioma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, among others. But the difference in these other conditions compared to small cell [lung cancer] is there are other treatment options that are reasonably effective in these other cancers, unlike in small cell, so that's where it becomes much more important in in this particular setting.
One other reason why lurbinectedin may be effective is, like I told you earlier, there is a group of cells that seem to be shielded from chemotherapy. We call them cancer stem cells. And there are some lab data that suggests that lurbinectedin may inhibit cancer stem cells, as well. Again, this is all preliminary data. And we don't necessarily know if that occurs in humans or not, but those are some of the hypothesized mechanisms of action.
What other advantages are there of lurbinectedin over topotecan?
One of the other advantages of lurbinectedin over topotecan is that topotecan has to be given 5 days in a row, whereas lurbinectedin is given just once every 3 weeks. And the side effect profile of lurbinectedin seems to be favorable. The main side effect of lurbinectedin is bone marrow suppression, anemia, leukopenia, neutropenia, [and] thrombocytopenia, but they seem to occur in about 5% to 10% of patients. And so, that's another possible advantage of lurbinectedin over for some of the other drugs that are available.
As far as small cell lung cancer itself is concerned, even though there is a lot of research going on in small cell, multiple different drugs have been tried—targeted therapies, immunotherapy—there is some evidence to suggest that immunotherapy helps with chemotherapy in the frontline setting. But immunotherapy by itself in patients who have failed chemotherapy does not seem to be much more effective. People have tried targeted therapies, again, not one of them has shown to have any meaningful benefit for these patients. So that has been very disappointing.
There have been multiple drugs that have been studied. Unfortunately, none of them have had a significant benefit so far. So, it's a fairly difficult to treat disease. And like I mentioned earlier, even though it seems to respond quite well to initial chemotherapy…most patients relapse and very few are cured even if they present with very early stage disease. And that's why it's a very challenging disease to treat.