Brain cancer treatment

Olive oil-based drug shows promise as brain cancer treatment

An NHS trial of a drug derived from olive oil has indicated the treatment could be beneficial to patients with the most common form of brain cancer.

Idroxioleic acid, otherwise known as 2-OHOA, is a synthetic lipid that occurs naturally in animal and vegetable fats like olive oil.

The treatment works by making the membranes within cancer cells act like normal cells, ultimately inhibiting growth and thus the disease’s spread around the body.

A study conducted by the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in collaboration with London’s Institute of Cancer Research recruited 54 patients with recurrent glioblastoma or another type of advanced solid tumour.

Of the 21 glioblastoma patients that were treated almost a quarter (24%) responded positively to the drug, with one person showing an exceptional response.

“There hasn’t been an effective new treatment for this patient group in nearly two decades…”

Glioblastoma impacts around 3,200 people a year in the UK, with most people dying within a year of diagnosis.

“There hasn’t been an effective new treatment for this patient group in nearly two decades, so drug development urgently needs to be accelerated,” says Dr Juanita Lopez, consultant medical oncologist at the Royal Marsden and study lead.

She adds: “Unfortunately, patients with brain cancer often don’t have the opportunity to participate in early phase trials.

“This underpins the vital importance of research into novel new drugs like this, which is designed from the same building blocks as olive oil. 2-OHOA works by reshaping the walls of cancer cells, blocking crucial growth signals that drive cancer.”

The promising results from this phase 1/2 study have allowed the NHS to launch another phase 2b/3 trial to test 2-OHOA on more than 200 newly diagnosed glioblastoma patients.

Dr Lopez concludes: “We’re very much looking forward to results from ongoing trials and hope this treatment eventually becomes widely available.”

The results from the initial trial were published in the British Journal of Cancer. It was supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Research.

Image credit: iStock

NHE March/April 2024

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