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Scientists develop new precision medicine approach for pancreatic cancer

Scientists from the University of Glasgow are developing new ways to predict who will respond to drugs targeting damaged DNA in pancreatic cancer. 

Publishing their findings in Gastroenterology, the team used cells grown in the lab (cell lines) and mini replicas of patients’ tumours (organoids) to identify molecular markers that can predict which tumours will respond to a number of drugs that target damaged DNA.  

Dr David Chang, from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cancer Sciences, called the results “a huge breakthrough in terms of what might be possible for future treatments.”

The team are now taking their strategy forward into a clinical trial to help doctors work out who might respond to the drugs, either alone or in combination. The trial – PRIMUS-004 – is part of our Precision Panc platform for pancreatic cancer, which aims to increase opportunities for people with pancreatic cancer to join clinical trials and to develop new treatment strategies. 

“The strategy we’ve developed is extremely promising, and we’re very pleased and proud to see it now be taken into clinical trial.” – Dr David Chang

Precision Panc

In 2017, we invested £10 million in Precision Panc to speed up our understanding of pancreatic and work towards more tailored treatment for the disease. It’s our biggest standalone in pancreatic cancer research to date, with the aim of driving progress for pancreatic cancer, where survival has remained stubbornly low.

A major barrier to treating pancreatic effectively is that there are very few treatment options. But there are some pancreatic cancers that cannot repair damaged DNA, which make them vulnerable to some new treatments. This is what researchers are aiming to target.

“We urgently need new ways to treatment pancreatic cancer,” says Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive. “The Precision Panc study offers a dynamic way to explore new tailored treatments, and it’s fantastic that we know have new drug candidates to add to the PRIMUS-004 trials.”

A menu of trials

PRIMUS-004 is a mid-stage (phase 2) clinical trial testing the new approach to help match people with pancreatic that’s spread to new targeted treatments.

The trial is due to open this month and will be an option for people who’ve already had platinum chemotherapy and whose cancer has a fault that means it cannot repair damaged DNA. Funded by AstraZeneca and endorsed by Cancer Research UK, it’s the first trial in the UK that will test this precision medicine approach in pancreatic cancer. 

PRIMUS-004 is the fourth trial that Precision Panc will feed into, with 3 studies already linked to the platform – PRIMUS-001 for people with pancreatic cancer that’s spread and PRIMUS-002, which is testing the benefits of 2 different chemotherapy combos before surgery. 

Another trial – PRIMUS-005, involving patients with locally advanced cancer – is also due to open this month. 

As well as helping to give people with pancreatic cancer better trial options, the Precision Panc study is also collecting and analysing tumour samples and looking for new biomarkers to

Scientists develop new ‘precision medicine’ approach to treating damaged DNA in pancreatic cancer

dna
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Scientists have developed a new “precision medicine” approach to treating the damaged DNA in the cancer cells of Pancreatic Cancer patients.

The findings mark an important step forward for potential treatment options for pancreatic cancer, improving the options and outcomes for a disease where survival rates have remained stubbornly low.

The study detailing the approach—led by the University of Glasgow and published in Gastroenterology—used cell lines and organoids that were generated from patients with pancreatic cancer to develop new molecular markers that can predict who will respond to drugs targeting DNA damage.

The researchers tested these markers using multiple drugs, and have developed a strategy that are now being taken forward into clinical trial. The trial will help doctors and researchers predict which patient will respond to which one of these drugs, either alone or in combination.

Funding for the trail has come from AstraZeneca and will now be included in the PRIMUS-004 clinical trial as part of the Precision-Panc therapeutic development platform for pancreatic cancer.

PRIMUS-004 is a ground-breaking pancreatic cancer trial, which aims to match patients with more targeted and effective treatment for their tumors. Run by Precision-Panc, a flagship therapeutic development program dedicated to pancreatic cancer—led by the University of Glasgow with major funding from Cancer Research UK—the trial brings a precision medicine approach to pancreatic cancer treatment for the first time in the UK.

The trial will open for recruitment in Glasgow shortly, with 20 other centers throughout the UK to follow.

Although survival for many types of cancer has improved, pancreatic cancer survival has lagged significantly behind in the last 40 years. The disease is particularly hard to treat, partly because it’s often diagnosed at a late stage.

A major limitation to treating pancreatic cancer effectively is that there are very few treatment options for patients with the disease. Currently, some patients with pancreatic cancer cannot repair damaged DNA in the cancer cells, which makes the cancer vulnerable to some new and established drug treatments.

Dr. David Chang, from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cancer Sciences, said: “Our study is a huge breakthrough in terms of what might be possible with future treatments. As part of our research, the strategy we’ve developed is extremely promising, and we’re very pleased and proud to see it now be taken into clinical trial. For us, this is a demonstration of a bench-to-bedside precision oncology approach to tackle this terrible disease.”

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “We urgently need new ways to treat pancreatic cancer. The disease only has a few treatment options and is generally diagnosed at a late stage, so survival has remained stubbornly low. The Precision Panc study offers a dynamic way to explore new tailored treatments, and it’s fantastic that we now have new drug candidates to add to the PRIMUS-004 trial. We look forward to seeing if these drugs, which have shown promise in the lab, have the same impact for people with pancreatic cancer.”

CytRx Highlights Use of Licensed Drug Aldoxorubicin in Treatment of Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Pancreatic Cancer

Reid’s Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer is Reportedly in “Complete Remission” After Combination Immunotherapy That Included NantKwest’s PD-L1 t-haNK, ImmunityBio’s N-803 and Aldoxorubicin

ImmunityBio and NantKwest Announced in May 2020 That They Planned to Commence a Randomized Phase 2 Study of This Experimental Treatment for Pancreatic Cancer

CytRx Corporation (OTCQB: CYTR) (“CytRx” or the “Company”), a specialized biopharmaceutical company focused on research and development for the oncology and neurodegenerative disease categories, today highlighted the use of its licensed drug – aldoxorubicin – in the combination immunotherapy used by ImmunityBio, Inc. and NantKwest, Inc. to treat former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s stage IV pancreatic cancer. It was widely reported in June 2020 that former Senator Reid described himself as being in “complete remission” after receiving experimental treatment pioneered by the Chief Executive Officer of ImmunityBio and NantKwest.1

Earlier this year, CytRx highlighted that ImmunityBio and NantKwest announced the initiation of a Phase 2 randomized, two-cohort, open-label study for first and second-line treatment of locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer (QUILT-88). The study received Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) authorization and was slated to initially enroll 268 subjects across both cohorts. It has been indicated that enrollment was expected to begin in June 2020.

“We wish former Senator Reid the best now that he is reportedly in complete remission and hope that his combination immunotherapy treatment can become the basis for treating other individuals with pancreatic cancer,” said Steven A. Kriegsman, CytRx’s Chairman and CEO. “Although former Senator Reid is only one person and other comprehensive studies and trials are necessary and required, we continue to be encouraged with the progress and results of this promising pancreatic cancer treatment that includes aldoxorubicin.”

CytRx out-licensed global development, manufacturing and commercialization rights for aldoxorubicin to ImmunityBio in 2017. The Company has an agreement with ImmunityBio that can yield up to $343 million in potential milestone payments as well as prospective royalties on sales of aldoxorubicin.

About CytRx Corporation

CytRx Corporation (OTCQB: CYTR) is a biopharmaceutical company with expertise in discovering and developing new therapeutics principally to treat patients with cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. CytRx’s most advanced drug conjugate, aldoxorubicin, is an improved version of the widely used anti-cancer drug doxorubicin and has been out-licensed to ImmunityBio, Inc. In addition, CytRx’s other drug candidate, arimoclomol, was sold to Orphazyme A/S (Nasdaq Copenhagen exchange: ORPHA.CO) in exchange for milestone payments and royalties. Orphazyme is testing arimoclomol in four indications including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Niemann-Pick disease Type C (NPC), Gaucher disease and sporadic Inclusion Body Myositis (sIBM). CytRx Corporation’s website is www.cytrx.com.

About Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer kills an estimated 47,000 people annually; it is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S., and 57,600 new cases are expected in 2020. Less than 5% of these patients will live for more than five years after diagnosis, and the median survival prognosis is 5 to 8 months. Pancreatic cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancerous) cells form in the tissues of