Study to Look for Predictive Biomarker

New Potential NET Treatment under Investigation

It is hard for doctors to know which patients will respond to which therapies. New approaches in personalized medicine use predictive “biomarkers” to help guide treatment decisions.

A biomarker is a molecule found in blood, body fluid, or tissue. Research sometimes shows that people with a certain biomarker are more likely to respond to treatment than those who do not have the biomarker. Then doctors can test for that biomarker before starting treatment. That way patients who are most likely to improve are the ones given the treatment.

NETRF has funded a study of patient data to look for shared biomarkers among NET patients who participated in a clinical trial of cabozantinib, an approved treatment for kidney and thyroid cancer.

Jennifer A. Chan, MD, MPH, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA, led a phase II clinical trial of cabozantinib in patients with carcinoid and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNET) (NCT01466036). Six out of 41 patients with carcinoid and three of out 20 with pancreatic tumors experienced a partial response, with an overall response rate of 15%. Dr. Chan calls the results encouraging.

With funding from NETRF, Chan will now evaluate blood samples from clinical trial participants to see if those who responded to cabozantinib share any common biomarkers.

If Chan identifies a possible biomarker in the NETRF-funded study, she will try to verify it in a phase III trial of cabozantinib in NETs.

Chan said it will take time before we know for sure whether cabozantinib can help those living with NETs. “The phase III trials do take time so it may be several more years until we complete the accrual to the trial and have results. It may be several years out before this is an approved agent.”

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