Nanoliposome vehicles bring second-wave treatment for metastatic pancreatic cancer

Patients with pancreatic cancer whose disease still persists after regular treatments may benefit from a new cancer drug nanoliposome formulation, according to a presentation at the European Society for Molecular Oncology's 16th World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer.

At the conference in Barcelona, Spain, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis touted a late-stage study demonstrating that MM-398, a nanoliposome formulation of the cancer drug irinotecan, improved overall survival by almost two months as compared to a standard treatment of 5FU-leucovorin. MM-398 isn't intended to be a standalone treatment, however, but as a second-line option when other drugs are ineffective, according to the study published in the Annals of Oncology.

The drug combination also improved progression-free survival from 1.5 months to 3.1 months.

Nanoliposomes are capsules made with hydrophobic and hydrophilic layers similar to a cell's membrane. Holding drugs inside these vehicles keeps them safe in the blood stream and less likely to interfere with healthy cells surrounding a tumor.

"This delivery system allows longer drug exposure in the circulation, leading to higher accumulation of the drug and its active metabolite at the tumor site," study author Andrea Wang-Gillam said at the conference, as reported by Oncology Nurse Advisor. "MM-398 generated higher antitumor activity and was more effective than conventional irinotecan alone."

A second-line treatment can be important for patients whose cancer has gone metastatic and can't be treated with a common drug regimen.

"The results are very exciting because the trial met its primary end point and found a statistically significant benefit of MM-398 plus 5FU/leucovorin on overall survival and progression-free survival compared to 5FU/leucovorin alone," Wang-Gillam said. "We also found a significant benefit of the combination therapy on overall response and biochemical response."

- here's the Oncology Nurse Advisor report
- and here's the abstract (sub. req.)