Adding a novel monoclonal antibody therapy to traditional chemotherapy can help make people more likely to survive advanced sarcoma, a lethal soft-tissue cancer, by nearly a year, suggests a recent study.
Findings from a multicenter clinical trial of the combination therapy, led by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian, represent the first appreciable improvement in sarcoma outcomes in decades.
“We estimated from preclinical data that the new drug-olaratumab-might improve survival in these patients by a few months, but the extent of the improvement exceeded everybody’s expectations,” said study leader Gary K. Schwartz, adding: “While sarcoma remains a fatal disease, we’re encouraged that we’re on the right track and hope to build on this progress.”
If caught early, sarcomas can be treated effectively with surgery. However, if the disease spreads, or metastasizes, treatment with chemotherapy does relatively little to slow disease progression or improve survival. The median survival time after diagnosis of advanced disease is 12 to 16 months.
Schwartz and his colleagues are currently studying other potential drug targets for arresting the progression of soft-tissue sarcomas.
“Sarcomas are complex. There are, in fact, multiple receptors on the cell surface. PDGFR-alpha is just one of the receptors that are over expressed on sarcoma cells. We now have some ideas about how to combine drugs that block multiple types of these receptors, which will probably be more effective that targeting a single type of receptor,” he said.