‘Olive oil’ drug shows early promise in brain cancer

MRI showing glioblastoma

A drug derived from oleic acid – which naturally occurs in animal and vegetable fats such as olive oil – has shown promise for patients with brain cancer, following a study led by The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and The Institute of Cancer Research, London, UK.

Results from the multi-centre Phase I/II study, which have been published in the British Journal of Cancer, suggest the drug could be particularly effective for patients with glioblastoma.

Following these results, the drug is now being trialled in a global randomised Phase IIb/III study focused on newly diagnosed glioblastoma patients, which is recruiting patients at The Royal Marsden. 

The early study enrolled 54 patients with recurrent glioblastoma and other advanced solid tumours. Of the 21 patients with glioblastoma treated, around a quarter (24%) responded to the drug and one patient experienced an exceptional response, which lasted for more than three years. 

The drug, named 2-OHOA, is a synthetic lipid derived from oleic acid that works by restructuring the abnormal membranes of cancer cells, blocking crucial growth signals that drive cancer.

Phase I/II study lead Dr Juanita Lopez, Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and Reader in Early Phase Drug Development at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said:“Glioblastoma is an incredibly difficult disease to treat and patients with advanced disease have very poor outcomes, often living for just a year after their diagnosis. There hasn’t been an effective new treatment for this patient group in nearly two decades, so drug development urgently needs to be accelerated.  

Unfortunately, patients with brain cancer often don’t have the opportunity to participate in early phase trials. By including glioblastoma patients on this study, we were able to more quickly show early and hopeful results, supporting their inclusion in the Phase IIb/III trial.”

By DIANA SPENCER, Senior Digital Content Editor, DDW

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