Advertisement

‘Olive oil drug’ may help treat deadly and incurable brain cancer

Brain scan
Brain scan

An “olive oil drug” could help treat a deadly and incurable brain tumour, an early trial run by the NHS suggests.

Glioblastoma is the most common form of brain tumour and is extremely aggressive, with most people dying within one year of diagnosis. Around 3,200 patients are diagnosed every year in the UK.

Now, a drug derived from oleic acid, a chemical which naturally occurs in olive oil, has shown promise in early studies and the NHS is launching a phase three trial to test its effectiveness.

It is the first time a drug like this has been investigated as a potential treatment for the disease and previous results on 54 people, published in 2023 in the British Journal of Cancer, showed the drug should be given as a Lemsip-like sachet mixed with water three times a day.

A quarter of patients responded positively and one patient lived for more than three years.

A phase three trial of the drug, called idroxioleic acid or 2-OHOA, is now being launched by the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation which is recruiting more than 200 patients.

The drug works by reconfiguring the cell membranes of the cancerous cells to stop them working like a normal tumour and prevent the cancer from growing or spreading as effectively.

Dr Juanita Lopez, a consultant medical oncologist at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation and trial lead, said: “Glioblastoma is an incredibly difficult disease to treat and patients with advanced disease have very poor outcomes, often living for just a year after their 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.

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

‘An important milestone’

Dr Michele Afif, CEO at The Brain Tumour Charity, told The Telegraph: “Glioblastomas are notoriously difficult to treat, so any research that paves the way for better treatments of people facing this diagnosis is an important milestone.

“We welcome phase three clinical trials for those with this devastating disease as there have been so few new treatments in recent years. A crucial part of accelerating a cure for brain tumours is for every patient to have access to a clinical trial. We look forward to following the progress of this novel treatment in the phase three trial and hope it will help the brain tumour community.”

Dr Marianne Baker, the science engagement manager at Cancer Research UK, added: “It’s good news when a new type of cancer treatment shows promise in early-phase clinical trials and moves forward in development, taking it a step closer to the people who need it.

“It’s exciting to see this particular drug progress to phase 2b/3 studies where researchers are working with larger groups of volunteers who have glioblastoma.

“This will confirm whether it can benefit them and others like them in the future more than existing therapies can, and with less severe side effects. More research means more treatment options for people with brain tumours and other types of cancer.”