The Boston Business Journal reported this week that Massachusetts Eye and Ear researchers plan to launch trials of a drug commonly used to induce chemical abortion, called mifepristone, to treat vestibular schwannoma.
Vestibular schwannoma, a rare tumor, usually causes unilateral hearing loss and tinnitus, but can also cause dizziness and facial nerve paralysis. Because of where such tumors grow – often on or around the VIII cranial nerve — they can compress the nerves in the internal auditory canal and sometimes even put pressure on the brainstem.
For decades, otologists have often removed these types of tumors with surgery or radiation, but both procedures have significant risks for the patient, including complete loss of hearing or facial nerve paralysis.
Drug Treatment for Vestibular Schwannoma
To find a potential drug, according to the April 6th Business Journal report, researchers analyzed the gene activity of 80 tumors from patients with the ear disease. Researchers then looked at 1,100 drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration to determine which might convert the abnormal gene activity of the tumor to a normal one, ultimately testing eight candidates.
The experiments showed that mifepristone — currently approved by the FDA for use with another drug called misoprostol, in chemical abortions — was the most effective, reducing the proliferation of the cells by 80%.
“Currently, there are no FDA-approved drugs for vestibular schwannomas or the associated hearing loss. Therefore, there is an unmet medical need to discover drugs with minimal adverse effects that would treat this tumor and reduce or obviate the need for surgery and radiation.” –Dr. Konstantina Stankovic, an ear and skull base surgeon and auditory neuroscientist at Mass. Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School, who led the study
Doctors at Mass. Eye and Ear say the drug is a promising candidate. It has minimal adverse effects, including mild fatigue, hot flashes, nausea and rash. It has even been studied long-term in clinical trials for other tumors, with minimal adverse effects reported even after years of use. Mass. Eye & Ear researchers hope to begin a Phase 2 clinical trial to further study the drug soon.
Source: Jessica Bartlett, Boston Business Journal