Experimental Drug Shows Promise for Eye Cancer in Study

Researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and colleagues have reported promising early results from a study of eye cancer patients taking the experimental drug selumetinib. This is the first drug trial to show improvement in a type of eye cancer called uveal melanoma or intraocular melanoma.

There is currently no standard treatment for people with this type of cancer when it has spread (metastasized). Patients are typically advised to join clinical trials. Selumetinib is not yet available outside of clinical trials.

In this early stage study, 98 people with uveal melanoma were treated with either selumetinib or a chemotherapy drug that can be used to treat advanced melanoma. Of the 48 people who received selumetinib, half had tumors that shrank. None of the tumors shrank significantly among the 50 people who received chemotherapy.

Progression-free survival – the length of time before the cancer grows or gets worse – improved significantly with selumetinib. Those who took the drug had a progression-free survival of almost 16 weeks, compared to 7 weeks for those who received chemotherapy.

The results were reported at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Selumetinib is a targeted therapy drug that works by interrupting cell changes or signals that are needed for a cancer to develop and keep growing. This is the first time a targeted therapy has been shown to work in people with uveal melanoma.

Side effects tended to be manageable and included anemia, diarrhea, swelling, muscle weakness, and increased liver enzymes.

The drug is also being investigated for the treatment of other cancers, including cancers of the thyroid and lung.

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