VIB researcher Diether Lambrechts, associated with KU Leuven, has discovered a biomarker that might potentially predict which patients will benefit more from treatment with bevacizumab (Avastin). If validated, this discovery could be an important step towards personalized medicine and patient-tailored use of this important cancer drug.
Diether Lambrechts (VIB – KU Leuven) said “in two large clinical studies with patients with advanced stages of pancreas and kidney cancer a variant in the DNA was discovered that identified patients who did not respond well to the prescribed course of bevacizumab. Further research in the lab showed that this variant, or biomarker, was responsible for increasing the production of a certain protein that is hypothesized to neutralize the effect of bevacizumab in these patients. If this marker would be clinically validated, the marker could be used to distinguish patients that would benefit from the drug from those that would not, and spare them a futile therapy with possible side effects.”
Biomarkers for targeted treatments
Oncologists want to use treatments that target the particular cancer. Every cancer is characterized by a specific set of proteins that is responsible for the abnormal behavior of the tumor. Therapies aimed at blocking these proteins can significantly extend the life of cancer patients, provided that they receive the drug that is right for them. Cancers with a different set of proteins will not respond to a therapy that does not target those proteins. That is why developing biomarkers for all targeted therapies is so important.
An antibody as cancer drug
Eric Van Cutsem (UZ Leuven) explains that “Bevacizumab is a targeted therapy but there is no clinically validated biomarker yet. In clinical practice, patients in the advanced stages of colon, renal, lung and breast cancer are already being given bevacizumab in addition to their conventional (chemo)therapy. The monoclonal antibody bevacizumab neutralizes the wild growth of blood vessels triggered by the tumor in support of its aggressive growth. Currently studies are under way to determine whether bevacizumab could also be used for other cancers.”