Doctors researching a new mesothelioma pill presented research on the drug at a national virtual conference in May.
The ASCO conference is one of the most important gatherings of cancer doctors in the country. This year’s online meeting gave them a chance to safely learn about new cancer research. Only the most notable research is presented at the conference.
The new mesothelioma pill made the cut because research suggests it can help patients with asbestos cancer live longer.
How the New Medication Works
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Epizyme makes the new mesothelioma pill, called tazemetostat (Tazverik). The oral drug blocks the protein EZH2. This protein inhibits the genes that are supposed to suppress tumor growth. Over-expression of EZH2 has been linked to many types of cancer.
Most newly-diagnosed mesothelioma patients try chemotherapy with Alimta first. For many of them, Alimta either does not work or stops working after a while. Right now, there is no good ‘plan B’ for these patients. Epizyme hopes that the new mesothelioma pill will help some of them.
The news is good so far. The FDA approved tazemetostat in January for patients with epithelioid sarcoma. Research showed 15 percent of people with this cancer responded to the drug. Sixty-seven percent of those patients had a response that lasted more than six months.
Cancer Doctors Learn About New Mesothelioma Pill
Four sets of researchers made presentations about tazemetostat at the ASCO conference. The group that presented on the drug’s use in mesothelioma patients is from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Their tazemetostat study included 74 mesothelioma patients. Most patients had at least two other types of treatments before they joined the study. The patients either did not respond to previous mesothelioma treatments or stopped responding.
Ninety-five percent of the enrolled patients had a mutation on their BAP1 gene. People with the BAP1 mutation tend to respond better to the new mesothelioma pill.
In 12 weeks, 47 percent of patients who took the new mesothelioma pill had controlled disease. Two patients had a prolonged response to the treatment. One lasted 21 weeks and the other was still controlled at 15.3 weeks when the study ended.
Fewer than five percent of the mesothelioma patients had serious side effects. The most common were anemia and shortness of breath.
“Based on disease control rate and stable disease, tazemetostat showed antitumor activity in patients with BAP1-deficient relapsed or refractory malignant mesothelioma,” concludes lead researcher Marjorie Glass Zauderer. “The current data support further clinical evaluation of tazemetostat in these patients.”
Surviving Mesothelioma will continue to follow the progress of research on this new mesothelioma pill. We will bring you updates as they become available.
Glass Zauderer, M, et al, “Safety and efficacy of tazemetostat, an enhancer of zeste-homolog 2 inhibitor, in patients with relapsed or refractory malignant mesothelioma”, May 2020, Journal of Clinical Oncology, https://ascopubs.org/doi/abs/10.1200/JCO.2020.38.15_suppl.9058