The new oral drug called lenvatinib acts as a targeted therapy that fights cancer by preventing the growth of new blood vessels that feed the cancer, researchers explained.
In clinical trials, lenvatinib slowed down the progression of advanced thyroid cancer by 18 months, compared with four months in patients that received a placebo.
“It’s an encouraging time for the advancement of treating patients with many different kinds of cancer,” said Dr. Gregory Masters, of the new targeted therapies. Masters is an oncologist at Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Del., and a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
The findings of the research were published in New England Journal of Medicine.
The only treatment available to people with advanced thyroid cancer has been radioactive iodine, said study leader Dr. Steven Sherman, associate to vice provost for clinical research, and professor and chair of Endocrine Neoplasia and Hormonal Disorders at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
But more than half of patients do not respond to radioactive iodine treatment, Sherman said. Moreover, thyroid cancers have a tendency to become resistance to radioactive iodine over time, making the therapy less and less effective.
“It’s been a disease where it’s been very difficult to treat once it’s become resistant to radioactive iodine,” Masters said.
Lenvatinib must await U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for use against thyroid cancer, Masters said.