A new UK-led trial has been launched to examine the effectiveness of a combination of drug treatments for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).
The trial will include child and adult patients with relapsed or refractory ALL who also have a mutation in a gene involved in the RAS cell signalling pathway.
A total of 42 patients will be recruited from 23 centres in the UK and in 11 centres in six other European countries.
Patients will be treated with experimental medicine selumetinib, together with dexamethasone, widely used for leukaemia and other conditions.
Phase I of the trial will aim to establish the most suitable and effective dose of selumetinib to administer alongside dexamethasone.
Researcher Professor Josef Vormoor of the University of Newcastle, says: "Although there are effective treatments for leukaemia, for some patients, the disease can return after they have been treated. If this combination is successful, it could give us an urgently needed new way to treat patients who have relapsed and have few treatment options left."
Selumetinib acts by inhibiting the enzymes MEK 1 and 2, which are critical to the RAS-ERK pathway. This signaling pathway is implicated in cancer growth and progression, as a defective protein can make the pathway permanently active, leading to unchecked cell growth and division.
The work is partly funded by Cancer Research UK. Dr Ian Walker of the charity said: "We think it's important to support research into promising new combination therapies and provide more treatment options to both adults and children living with cancer.
"This is the first time that we have been successful in establishing a novel trial design involving both adults and children and we hope that this treatment combination will help more patients with leukaemia."
Source: Cancer Research UK
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