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The chemotherapy drug Halaven™ (eribulin mesylate) may be a promising therapy for certain types of soft-tissue sarcoma. These findings were recently reported in the Lancet Oncology.

Halaven—which was derived from a marine sponge—is a chemotherapy drug that affects cell division. It was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in November, 2010, for the treatment of breast cancer and is currently being studied in other types of cancer.

Soft tissue sarcomas are cancers that affect the connective and supportive tissues, which include bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, fat, blood vessels, and fibrous tissues. Sarcomas are relatively uncommon, but when they do occur, they tend to affect children and young adults.

To evaluate the activity of Halaven in different types of soft-tissue sarcoma, researchers conducted a Phase II study involving 128 patients diagnosed with sarcoma. Before the trial patients had received a maximum of one combination chemotherapy treatment or up to two single drugs for advanced disease. Patients had adipocytic sarcoma, leiomyosarcoma, synovial sarcoma, or other types of sarcoma.

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Patients were given Halaven intravenously on days one and eight and every three weeks until the sarcoma worsened or the patient was unable to tolerate treatment. .

  • Among patients with adipocytic sarcoma, 15 (46.9%) of 32 were progression-free at 12 weeks.
  • Among those with leiomyosarcoma, 12 (31.6%) of 38 were progression-free at 12 weeks.
  • Of those with synovial sarcoma, four (21.1%) of 19 were progression-free at 12 weeks.
  • Of those with other sarcomas, five (19.2%) of 26 were progression-free at 12 weeks.
  • Low white blood cell counts (neutropenia and leukopenia) were a common side effect.

Given the progression-free survival rates for adipocytic sarcoma and leiomyosarcoma following treatment with Halaven, this drug appears to be active in certain types of soft-tissue sarcoma. Further study of Halaven in sarcoma is warranted.

Reference: Activity of eribulin mesylate in patients with soft-tissue sarcoma: a phase 2 study in four independent histological subtypes. Schöffski P, Ray-Coquard, IL, Cioffi A, et al. Lancet Oncology [early online publication]. September 21, 2011.

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