Safety and activity of microRNA-loaded minicells in patients with recurrent malignant pleural mesothelioma: a first-in-man, phase 1, open-label, dose-escalation study

Lancet Oncol. 2017 Oct;18(10):1386-1396. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(17)30621-6. Epub 2017 Sep 1.


Background: TargomiRs are minicells (EnGeneIC Dream Vectors) loaded with miR-16-based mimic microRNA (miRNA) and targeted to EGFR that are designed to counteract the loss of the miR-15 and miR-16 family miRNAs, which is associated with unsuppressed tumour growth in preclinical models of malignant pleural mesothelioma. We aimed to assess the safety, optimal dosing, and activity of TargomiRs in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Methods: In this first-in-man, open-label, dose-escalation phase 1 trial at three major cancer centres in Sydney (NSW, Australia), we recruited adults (aged ≥18 years) with a confirmed diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma, measurable disease, radiological signs of progression after previous chemotherapy, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 0 or 1, life expectancy of 3 months or more, immunohistochemical evidence of tumour EGFR expression, and adequate bone marrow, liver, and renal function. Patients were given TargomiRs via 20 min intravenous infusion either once or twice a week (3 days apart) in a traditional 3 + 3 dose-escalation design in five dose cohorts. The dose-escalation steps planned were 5 × 109, 7 × 109, and 9 × 109 TargomiRs either once or twice weekly, but after analysis of data from the first eight patients, all subsequent patients started protocol treatment at 1 × 109 TargomiRs. The primary endpoints were to establish the maximum tolerated dose of TargomiRs as measured by dose-limiting toxicity, define the optimal frequency of administration, and objective response (defined as the percentage of assessable patients with a complete or partial response), duration of response (defined as time from the first evidence of response to disease progression in patients who achieved a response), time to response (ie, time from start of treatment to the first evidence of response) and overall survival (defined as time from treatment allocation to death from any cause). Analyses were based on the full analysis set principle, including every patient who received at least one dose of TargomiRs. The study was closed for patient entry on Jan 3, 2017, and registered with, number NCT02369198, and the Australian Registry of Clinical Trials, number ACTRN12614001248651.

Findings: Between Sept 29, 2014, and Nov 24, 2016, we enrolled 27 patients, 26 of whom received at least one TargomiR dose (one patient died before beginning treatment). Overall, five dose-limiting toxicities were noted: infusion-related inflammatory symptoms and coronary ischaemia, respectively, in two patients given 5 × 109 TargomiRs twice weekly; anaphylaxis and cardiomyopathy, respectively, in two patients given 5 × 109 TargomiRs once weekly but who received reduced dexamethasone prophylaxis; and non-cardiac pain in one patient who received 5 × 109 TargomiRs once weekly. We established that 5 × 109 TargomiRs once weekly was the maximum tolerated dose. TargomiR infusions were accompanied by transient lymphopenia (25 [96%] of 26 patients), temporal hypophosphataemia (17 [65%] of 26 patients), increased aspartate aminotransferase or alanine aminotranferase (six [23%] of 26 patients), and increased alkaline phosphatase blood concentrations (two [8%]). Cardiac events occurred in five patients: three patients had electrocardiographic changes, one patient had ischaemia, and one patient had Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Of the 22 patients who were assessed for response by CT, one (5%) had a partial response, 15 (68%) had stable disease, and six (27%) had progressive disease. The proportion of patients who achieved an objective response was therefore one (5%) of 22, and the duration of the objective response in that patient was 32 weeks. Median overall survival was 200 days (95% CI 94-358). During the trial, 21 deaths occurred, of which 20 were related to tumour progression and one was due to bowel perforation.

Interpretation: The acceptable safety profile and early signs of activity of TargomiRs in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma support additional studies of TargomiRs in combination with chemotherapy or immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Funding: Asbestos Diseases Research Foundation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Australia
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Cancer Care Facilities
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Maximum Tolerated Dose
  • Mesothelioma / diagnostic imaging
  • Mesothelioma / drug therapy*
  • Mesothelioma / mortality
  • Mesothelioma / pathology
  • Mesothelioma, Malignant
  • MicroRNAs / administration & dosage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / mortality
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Patient Safety*
  • Patient Selection
  • Pleural Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Pleural Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Pleural Neoplasms / mortality
  • Pleural Neoplasms / pathology
  • Positron Emission Tomography Computed Tomography / methods
  • Risk Assessment
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome


  • MicroRNAs

Associated data

  • ANZCTR/ACTRN12614001248651