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Study tests drug that targets tumor microenvironment

Trial looks to see whether addition of novel agent enhances chemotherapy’s efficacy in some gastrointestinal cancers

March 08, 2022

Oncologist Anup Kasi, MD, MPH, is evaluating whether adding a novel agent called CEND-1 helps chemotherapy better permeate cancerous tumors. The phase I/II investigator-initiated clinical trial, called CENDIFOX, combines CEND-1 and Forfirinox, a standard chemotherapy to treat pancreatic, appendiceal and colorectal cancers. Combined, gastrointestinal cancers are the most common form of cancer in the U.S. Colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed and second deadliest cancer in men and women in the U.S. 

Cancer treatment typically includes chemotherapy followed by surgery to remove the tumor. By adding CEND-1 to the treatment line-up, Dr. Kasi is looking to see whether the chemotherapy’s impact is improved. This is the first time CEND-1 has been tested in the U.S.

“CEND-1 is a peptide molecule that may help chemotherapy better penetrate the tumor microenvironment and may ultimately shrink the tumor,” Dr. Kasi said. “This could improve our chances for successful surgery following chemotherapy.”

A smooth membrane called the peritoneal membrane lines the abdominal cavity. It contains and protects our organs. It also acts as a barrier that limits the absorption of cancer drugs targeted at gastrointestinal tumors. Previous studies have shown that CEND-1, given via an infusion, makes the environment more accessible by binding to receptors in the tumor’s blood vessels. Because CEND-1 has been proved to help chemotherapy better access its target, it also decreases the amount of chemotherapy circulating in the body. This may limit damage to healthy cells which causes side effects such as fatigue, weight changes and infection.

“Standard chemotherapy has improved cancer survival rates, but there is certainly room for improvement,” Dr. Kasi said. “The more we can shrink tumors before surgery the better the outcomes for our patients.”

Learn more about the CENDIFOX clinical trial.

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