We’re happy to share that chordoma patients with advanced or metastatic chordoma are now eligible to enroll in a new Phase 2 clinical trial testing the FDA-approved cancer drug cetuximab (Erbitux®). The primary goal of the trial is to determine whether cetuximab can cause chordoma tumors to shrink or stabilize over a long period of time.
Importantly, the study also aims to understand the factors that might make the drug more effective for some patients than others so that in the future doctors can offer it to those patients most likely to benefit. Additionally, it may result in new ideas about other drugs to combine with cetuximab to increase its effectiveness.
“Current treatments for chordoma patients with advanced or metastatic chordoma are limited, so we’re excited about the promise of the cetuximab trial to improve the options we can offer these individuals,” says sarcoma oncologist Dr. Anthony Conley of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, who’s leading the new trial.
Urgent need, compelling evidence
Even when chordoma patients receive the best care possible — including state-of-the-art surgery and/or radiation — sometimes their tumors return or spread to other parts of the body. If that happens, there are no approved drugs to treat the recurrence or metastasis. For patients who aren’t candidates for further surgery or radiation, effective systemic therapies are urgently needed.
Thus, our ongoing Drug Repurposing Initiative works across the continuum of basic, preclinical, and clinical research to identify and test existing drugs that can help chordoma patients in the near term. Cetuximab is the latest drug to move from preclinical studies into a clinical trial as a result of this initiative.
Cetuximab works by inhibiting a protein called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Research in multiple labs around the world has revealed that EGFR plays an important role in driving the growth of many chordoma tumors, and suggests that drugs targeting EGFR could represent a promising treatment approach for chordoma patients. Additionally, cetuximab has demonstrated an impressive ability to stop or even shrink chordoma tumors in mice in experiments conducted through the Foundation’s Drug Screening Program. And, to date, there have been three published case reports of chordoma patients benefiting from treatment with cetuximab.
Based on this evidence, our Medical and Scientific Advisory Boards endorsed the concept of a cetuximab trial, and Dr. Conley and colleagues at MD Anderson took the initiative to design a clinical trial with input from our Medical Advisory Board.
The trial is made possible through an in-kind donation of drug supply as well as partial financial support from the maker of cetuximab, Eli Lilly and Company, with the Chordoma Foundation funding the remainder of the trial’s cost. We’re grateful to our donors, in particular Robert and Tamara Fleisher, for generously contributing to this important study.
How to participate in the cetuximab trial
We encourage chordoma patients whose tumors have come back after surgery and/or radiation to speak with their doctors about whether cetuximab may be an appropriate option for them. Contact our Patient Navigators with questions about clinical trial participation, and a full list of chordoma-relevant trials recommended by our Medical Advisory Board is available on our drug therapy options page.
In addition to potentially benefiting from new treatments, individuals who participate in clinical trials contribute to knowledge that will help future patients. Clinical trial participation is one of many ways patients can accelerate progress against chordoma.