Doctors are regularly combining different cancer therapies, trying to find a magic bullet to cure cancer or at least extend survival by a few precious weeks or months.
One drug in the experimental stages is ramucirumab, a monoclonal antibody.
Ramucirumab was featured in a 161‑person study across nearly two years, from December 2016 to July 2018. The study was conducted in Italy, where half the patients received ramucirumab with gemcitabine, an experimental chemotherapy drug. The other half received gemcitabine and a placebo, a test used in double‑blind studies.
Ramucirumab nearly doubled the life expectancy for patients receiving gemcitabine. The median survival was nearly 14 months, compared to 7.5 months for the placebo group.
This study, titled RAMES, was the first to highlight the potential of ramucirumab as a treatment for mesothelioma.
What Does Ramucirumab Do to Cancer?
Ramucirumab is a type of cancer immunotherapy treatment. It’s called a monoclonal antibody, meaning it’s a lab‑generated protein that binds to a specific cancer cell receptor. Ramucirumab is primarily used for solid tumor cancers, such as mesothelioma.
More specifically, ramucirumab is an anti‑vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) drug. Its purpose is preventing angiogenesis for cancer cells.
Like healthy cells, diseased ones need blood vessels to supply oxygen‑rich blood. This oxygen helps the tumors grow and makes the cancer stronger. Angiogenesis is the creation of new blood vessels to supply these nutrients, and the VEGF is part of the angiogenesis process.
Preventing the creation of these blood vessels denies nutrients for cancer cells. This slows the growth and spread of tumors.
Ramucirumab targets and binds to the VEGF receptor, blocking the creation of vessels. The cancer cells suffocate from a lack of oxygen.
Weaker cancer cells are more susceptible to chemotherapy agents, such as gemcitabine. There are other mesothelioma chemotherapy drugs, like pemetrexed, worth testing with ramucirumab.
How to Administer Ramuricumab as a Mesothelioma Therapy
The Italian researchers provided a guideline for how to administer ramucirumab. Some studies or cancer centers may test their own methods and dosages.
According to the study details, patients received the anti‑VEGF monoclonal antibody once every three weeks. These are called “cycles” of therapy. Chemotherapy similarly is given once every three weeks.
The dosage for ramucirumab was 10 mg/kg. This figure means patients received 10 mg of the drug for every kg of body weight.
Side Effects of Ramucirumab for Mesothelioma
Mild or severe side effects can occur after receiving ramucirumab. The study in Italy had severe side effects in 44% of the ramucirumab group. This number was higher than the placebo group.
Fortunately, there weren’t any treatment‑related deaths in the study. The most common side effects were:
- Neutropenia (lower‑than‑normal levels of a type of white blood cell)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Thromboembolism (blood clot obstructing a blood vessel)
Ramucirumab is one of many experimental therapies in testing for malignant mesothelioma. If you have this cancer and want to join a clinical trial, contact our medical team. We have a registered nurse available to help you apply for any number of clinical trials. Some might be conducted at cancer centers in your area. Email our lead medical expert, Karen Ritter, at email@example.com.
Sources & Author
- Gemcitabine with or without ramucirumab as second-line treatment for malignant pleural mesothelioma (RAMES): a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 2 trial. The Lancelet Oncology. Retrieved from: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS1470-2045(21)00404-6/fulltext. Accessed: 09/08/2021.
- Ramucirumab–gemcitabine encouraging in second-line malignant pleural mesothelioma. Medwire News. Retrieved from:
https://www.medwirenews.com/oncology/respiratory/ramucirumab-gemcitabine-malignant-pleural-mesothelioma/18096212. Accessed: 06/24/2020.