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Cancer Research UK to use Astra Zeneca’s AZD1775 in head and neck cancer trial

PBR Staff Writer Published 24 November 2017

UK researchers are all set to launch an early-stage trial to evaluate an experimental drug from Astra Zeneca’s for improving the treatment of head and neck cancer.

The trial, dubbed WISTERIA, will assess the effectiveness of the pharma company’s experimental compound AZD1775, in combination with chemotherapy prior to surgery or with chemotherapy and radiotherapy after surgery.

Researchers will also use the trial to know whether the experimental drug can also reduce the chances of the cancer from relapsing.

Additionally, the researchers want to determine if the AZD1775 and chemotherapy combination before surgery can reduce the necessity for further treatment after surgery.

The trial will be held under the Combinations Alliance initiative which is carried out jointly by Cancer Research UK and the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMC) Network.

In this phase 1 trial, the researchers will find out whether the combination of AZD1775 with pre-surgery cisplatin chemotherapy and post-surgery cisplatin chemotherapy and radiotherapy is safe or not in head and neck cancer patients. Also, the strength of the dosing at which the drug is most effective will be determined.

AZD1775, a DNA Damage Response compound, has been designed to inhibit WEE1, a protein which controls the cell cycle. The compound has been demonstrated to increase the effectiveness of cisplatin chemotherapy and radiotherapy during its pre-clinical trials.

The trial, which will be co-ordinated by the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit, will have up to 42 patients divided equally into two groups. It will be held at the University of Birmingham.

While the first group will be treated with AZD1775 with chemotherapy prior to surgery, the other patient arm will receive AZD1775 along with chemotherapy and radiotherapy after surgery. 

The standard treatment for high-risk head and neck cancer, which involves surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy, is considered to be the most effective option. However, survival chances are still bleak while the treatment is known to have significant impact on quality of life for survivors.

University of Birmingham InHANSE director Hisham Mehanna, who is also the chief investigator of the trial, said: “Many patients diagnosed with aggressive types of head and neck cancer are at a high risk of relapse after surgery, so we urgently need to find new ways to treat the disease and reduce the risk of it returning.

“We hope that combining this drug with chemotherapy will mean that treatment is more effective helping more people survive, and that those cured will have a better quality of life after treatment.”

Image: UK researchers will begin a head and neck cancer trial using Astra Zeneca’s AZD1775. Photo: courtesy of Cancer Research UK.