Combination therapy could significantly improve glioblastoma survival rates

Friday 26 January 2018

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital prepare to launch a phase 1 clinical trial to test the combination therapy of hydroxyurea and temozolomide (TMZ)

A study published in the journal of Neuro-Oncology reported that adding the chemotherapy drug hydroxyurea to current chemotherapy treatment with TMZ significantly improved survival in animal models of glioblastoma.

Glioblastoma is an aggressive type of brain tumour that affects approximately 74, 000 individuals across the globe, annually. The current standard of treatment includes surgical removal of the tumour, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy with TMZ.

While including TMZ in the treatment regimen for glioblastomas improves survival, 90% of individuals receiving TMZ will succumb to their disease within 5 years. This dismal survival rate could be attributed to the development of TMZ resistance.

To overcome TMZ resistance, a research team led by Jian Teng, PhD, screened 21 anti-cancer drugs against tumour cells that were either TMZ sensitive or TMZ resistant. Of these 21 drugs, hydroxyurea sensitised all cells to TMZ treatment, including previously resistant cells.

The research team then tested the combination of hydroxyurea and TMZ in mice with glioblastomas. Overall, the combination therapy significantly reduced tumour growth and improved survival in 50% of the animals.

"Hydroxyurea has been used for decades to treat conditions such as sickle cell disease and some types of cancer, so bringing this approach into the clinic should be straightforward. We are currently preparing to test this combination in a phase 1 clinical trial, which we hope to start very soon," says Dr Bakhos A. Tannous, senior co-author of this study.

This study is similar to other research led by Professor Thomas W├╝rdinger, who is another senior co-author of this study. Professor W├╝rdinger is the principle investigator for the research programme WINDOW (Window for Improvement for Newly Diagnosed patients by Overcoming disease Worsening), which is co-funded by us.