Promising drug trial shows rare cancers can be shrunk

June 2021

A recent press report by Ben Mitchell highlights an exciting development in the field of NETs research...


Researchers in the UK and US have discovered that a drug can stop the growth of, and even shrink, an advanced form of cancerous tumour.

The treatment, known as PEN-221, has been shown to stabilise neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) in almost 90% of patients and reduce the size of tumours in almost 40%. NETs are rare cancers usually found in the pancreas, bowels or lungs but can also develop in other parts of the body, with 4,000 newly diagnosed cases a year in the UK.

They arise from cells in the body forming a link between the nervous system and the endocrine system, a collection of glands which produce hormones. The treatment combines an anti-cancer molecule with a hormone to deliver the drug direct to the tumour site, via a drip.

Hampshire charity, Planets, at University Hospital Southampton, led by Dr Judith Cave, was among the sites to test the medication. Dr Cave, who was involved in trials with 32 patients, said "We are also hugely grateful to our patients as, without them, this would not be possible."

Layla Stephen, a co-founder of Planets, which helps patients with pancreatic, liver, colorectal, abdominal and neuroendocrine cancer, took part in the trial. She said that she had seen a 20% reduction in her tumour burden and added: "I am now quietly confident that this could be a potential game-changer for certain NET patients if the continued next stage trials go well".

The study, led by the University of Texas and funded by Tarveda Therapeutics, showed that the drug stopped the growth of tumours in 88.5% of patients.