MORAb-009 is a new type of anti-cancer drug called a monoclonal antibody. Antibodies are commonly known as proteins that attack invaders in the body, such as viruses and bacteria. MORAb-009 is a specific IgG1 antibody that is produced in the laboratory. From a single parent cell, clones are produced to make these identical immune cells. Monoclonal antibodies then specifically bind to a particular substance.
How MORAb-009 Affects Mesothelioma
MORAb-009 was designed to attach to a specific protein called mesothelin that is found on the surface of certain cancers. While studying techniques for the early detection of mesothelioma, researchers discovered that mesothelin is over-expressed in most mesothelioma tumors. MORAb-009 is meant to attack mesothelioma in two ways: (1) by binding to the mesothelin protein and blocking its ability to interact with other cells, it induces cell death; and (2) by stimulating the patient’s own immune system, it assists the body in fighting the tumor cells. Researchers are hopeful that this type of antibody therapy will be effective in the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma and malignant peritoneal mesothelioma.
Promising Phase I Results
In a Phase I clinical trial reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2007, a patient with pancreatic cancer (which, like mesothelioma, expresses the mesothelin protein) showed stable disease after being treated with MORAb-009. This patient’s pancreatic cancer had previously progressed on Gemcitabine. Moreover, the researchers in the clinical trial determined that MORAb-009 was safe and well tolerated at the experimental dose given to the participants in the clinical trial.
In another study published in a journal of the Academy of Cancer Immunology in 2007, researchers determined that MORAb-009 in combination with chemotherapy resulted in a reduction in tumor growth in laboratory mice compared to chemotherapy or MORAb-009 alone. It was further reported that animal studies indicated that there were no adverse side effects from MORAb-009.
Phase II Clinical Trial Using MORAb-009 with Chemotherapy Drugs to Treat Mesothelioma
Morphotek, Inc., the manufacturer of MORAb-009 is conducting a Phase II clinical trial that is currently recruiting participants with unresectable malignant mesothelioma. The Morphotek clinical trial will use a combination of the chemotherapy drugs Alimta and Cisplatin with MORAb-009. Alimta (Pemetrexed) and Cisplatin are the most commonly prescribed chemotherapy drug combination used in treating malignant mesothelioma. The theory in this clinical trial is that the addition of MORAb-009 to Pemetrexed and Cisplatin will provide another mechanism of attacking mesothelioma. Thus, the hypothesis is that combination of Pemetrexed, Cisplatin, and MORAb-009 will be a more effective treatment than with the Pemetrexed and Cisplatin protocol. This clinical trial will be conducted at various cancer centers throughout the United States.