Studies that target gene mutations, regardless of the cancer’s site of origin, are helping make precision medicine in oncology more attainable, even for some of the rarest forms of cancer. Ignyta, a biotechnology company, is currently coordinating a new clinical trial, STARTRK-2, for TRK mutations, which are often seen in head and neck cancer patients. According to the article, Tropomyosin-Related Kinases (TRK) Making Headway in Head and Neck Cancer, gene rearrangements in the tropomyosin-related kinases (TRK), a family of neurotrophin receptor tyrosine kinases encoded by the NTRK1, NTRK2, and NTRK3 genes, are being increasingly recognized in head and neck cancers. Papillary thyroid cancer, as well as cancer of the salivary glands, have been found to frequently demonstrate gene rearrangements in NTRK genes. An estimated 5-13% of papillary thyroid cancers contain NTRK1 gene rearrangements, while an additional 2-14% are thought to carry NTRK2 gene arrangements.
The STARTRK-2 clinical trial is designed to evaluate the potential response of tumors with specific gene rearrangements to an investigational drug called entrectinib. Entrectinib is designed to target specific causes of certain types of cancer. The clinical trial is looking at patients with gene rearrangements in NTRK1, NTRK2, NTRK3, and ROS1, or ALK. Alan Ho, a medical oncologist at the Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, specializes in the treatment of head and neck cancers and comments on the study, describing, “Molecular testing is not standard for patients with head/neck and salivary cancers. However, with the increasing availability of experimental and approved agents that are deigned to inhibit genetically altered targets, we are just beginning to touch on the potential of molecular testing to identify rational therapeutic options for our patients, particularly those with rare diseases for whom standard treatment options do not exist and greater clinical guidance is most needed.” He also states that “STARTRK-2 and other trials like it represent exciting, new treatment opportunities for patients with tumors that harbor the appropriate genetic aberrations.”
Education is one of the main goals that the Thyroid Care Collaborative (TCC) is committed to achieving. Through our news stories, patients and physicians can stay up to date on recent thyroid related news, such as new research studies that are being conducted. The TCC works to alert patients and physicians on relevant research findings to identify new treatment opportunities for all patients.