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Drug that could reduce weight loss, fatigue in tumour patients to be tested

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Cancer patients in the United Kingdom (UK) will test a drug that has been designed to reduce weight loss and fatigue caused by the disease.

Researchers have been given almost £1million to run a trial in the hopes the drug will ease symptoms, which can make life unbearable for people with advanced cancer.

Bermekimab is a form of immunotherapy that blocks a molecule in the body, which can cause inflammation and pain, and is believed to be involved in disease progression.

Described as ‘radical’ by experts, bermekimab has already been fast-tracked for clinical trials in patients with advanced bowel cancer.

Researchers led by the University of Edinburgh will begin recruiting patients from Scotland, Cardiff and London for the study this year.

The team is working with the United States (US)-based biotechnology company XBiotech, which developed the therapy.

Patients with advanced lung, pancreatic or ovarian cancer will be given the first chance to test bermekimab.

As cancer advances, it can hijack the immune system causing life-altering physical symptoms for patients.

These include loss of appetite and weight loss, muscle loss and fatigue, pain and nausea, which can make daily life difficult.

Bermekimab targets a molecule of the immune system called IL-1alpha, part of the interleukin-1 (IL-1) family of cytokines.

Cytokines are a group of proteins in the body that play an important part in regulating the immune system and its responses, which include inflammation.

Scientists are working to create IL-1alpha inhibitors to interrupt inflammation processes and treat diseases.

Dr. Barry Laird, senior lecturer in palliative medicine at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Genetics, is leading the trial.

He said: “Using immunotherapy to target the cause of symptoms in cancer is a new approach. If successful, it has the potential to improve quality of life for people with advanced cancer.”

The trial has been developed in conjunction with the UK’s National Cancer Research Institute and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

It offers ‘new hope’ for patients with advanced cancer, said Dr. Steve Wootton, a nutrition expert at the University of Southampton.

Wootton added the study will allow scientists to test theories about how cancer leads to severe malnutrition and weight loss.

Professor Sam Ahmedzai, from the National Cancer Research Institute’s Supportive Care Clinical Studies Group, described the study as a “radical new approach”.

Patients will be recruited from five sites across the UK – Edinburgh Cancer Centre, the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London.

XBiotech’s CEO, John Simard, added: “Bermekimab is able to target a crucial inflammatory process that enables tumours to grow, spread and disrupt normal organ function to cause harm.”

Researchers have been awarded the cash by the Medical Research Council.


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