One of the traits that distinguishes cancer cells from normal cells is that cancer cells do not go through a normal cycle of cell division that ultimately leads to the cell’s death. Normal cells, on the other hand, have a mechanism by which cells go through a process of cell death called apoptosis. Certain chemotherapy drugs specifically inhibit proteins in cancer cells. When these proteins are blocked, the cancer cells can then act as a normal cell and undergo apoptosis.

Bortezomib, under the trade name Valcade, is the type of chemotherapy drug that induces cancer cell death or apoptosis. Bortezomib does this by blocking the 26S proteasome in cancer cells. It is currently used in the treatment of multiple myeloma and certain leukemias. Studies are underway to determine the potential effect this drug may have in treating malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital Preclinical Studies of Bortezomib Show Promise in Fight Against Mesothelioma

Dr. Gavin Gordon, Dr. David Sugarbaker, and their colleagues at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts are part of the International Mesothelioma Program, which is involved with significant research projects involving many aspects of the treatment of mesothelioma. These researchers cultured malignant pleural mesothelioma cells in vitro and studied the effects of Bortezomib alone and in combination with Cisplatin or Alimta on these cells. In this study, published in Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology in April 2008, they found that Bortezomib was effective in causing cell death or apoptosis in the cultured mesothelioma cells. They also found that Bortezomib in combination with Cisplatin was effective when the Bortezomib was administered at high levels, but not effective at low concentrations. Bortezomib increased the effectiveness of both Cisplatin and Alimta in a concentration-dependent manner. The researchers concluded that their study justified further evaluation of Bortezomib for the treatment of malignant mesothelioma.

Dr. Gordon is continuing this research on Bortezomib by testing it on mesothelioma tumor fragments called spheroids.

Italian Researchers Find Bortezomib Effective In Vitro and In Vivo

Dr. Giovanni Gaudino, a cancer researcher at the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii (CRCH), and his colleagues found that Bortezomib was cytotoxic and induced apoptosis on mesothelioma cells that were cultured in vitro or in the test tube. They also grafted malignant mesothelioma cells into mice to study the effects of Bortezomib in vivo or in the body. It was determined that Bortezomib induced apoptosis and inhibited tumor growth in mesothelioma in the experimental mice.

Active, Recruiting Mesothelioma Clinical Trials Studying Bortezomib

The Irish Clinical Oncology Research Group is conducting a Phase II clinical trial to study the effects of Bortezomib on patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma. The primary objective of this study is to determine the tumor response to Bortezomib. Secondary objectives are to measure the time to disease progression, overall survival, safety, and patient quality of life.

In a United Kingdom clinical trial, the European Organization for Research of Cancer is studying the effects the combination of Bortezomib and Cisplatin have on malignant mesothelioma. This study will look at the progression free survival rate of patients with mesothelioma when Bortezomib and Cisplatin are used in combination as a first line treatment.