Toxic antibody tisutumab vedotin (TV) has shown promise as a treatment for a number of types of advanced cancer, The Lancet Oncology journal has announced. This “trojan horse” approach has now reached the stage of being tested on a wider variety of patients. Institute of Cancer Research and Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust researchers tested the drug on 147 patients to evaluate potential benefits and side effects.

TV is made up of a monoclonal antibody and a cytotoxic component, which has the potential to damage or destroy cells. The antibody seeks out cell-signalling flags in membranes called tissue factors, and enters them.

A number of tumours are known to exploit these tissue factors in order to grow rapidly. TV, because it prevents cells from reproducing, is excellent for preventing this happening. So far, early trials have shown the drug has the potential to treat several different types of cancer, including cervix, bladder, ovaries, oesophagus and lung.

Bladder cancer patients saw the best response, with 27% of volunteers seeing a stabilisation of their cancer.

When phase I trials began in 2013 on 27 patients, serious side effects emerged, including signs of severe type 2 diabetes, inflammation of the mucosa, and fever.

In future, phase II testing will be expanded to include bowel and pancreas cancer patients, and on cervical cancers which have failed to perish after initial treatments. If the drug still proves successful, third phase testing will occur in several years, where the drug’s efficiency and safety will be fully tested.