Dana Farber Webchat: The Latest in Ovarian Cancer Treatment & Research

The latest developments in ovarian cancer treatment and research are addressed in the video below via a Dana-Farber Cancer Institute webchat that was conducted on September 16, 2014.

The Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute conducted a live video webchat panel with Ursula Matulonis, M.D., medical director of the Gynecologic Oncology Program, and gynecologic oncologists Panos Konstantinopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., and Susana Campos, M.D., MPH. The live webchat was held on September 16, 2014.

The general webchat topics addressed by the Dana-Farber doctors are listed below. For your convenience, we also provided the approximate video start time associated with each discussion topic. The entire video runs 49 minutes and 20 seconds.

  • Various types/subtypes of ovarian cancer and treatment differences. [1:40 minutes]
  • CA-125 and other ovarian cancer biomarkers. [5:10 minutes]
  • Areas of ongoing ovarian cancer research. [9:28 minutes]
  • Ovarian cancer treatment alternatives to standard of care chemotherapy. [13:55 minutes]
  • PARP Inhibitors & Immunotherapy. [15:03 minutes]
  • Mechanisms to reverse platinum drug resistance. [17:15 minutes]
  • Correlation between ovarian cancer and HPV (Human papillomavirus). [19:30 minutes]
  • The use of clinical trials for the treatment of ovarian cancer. [19:43 minutes]
  • Stage 1 ovarian cancer prognosis. [21:47 minutes]
  • Gene mutations related to hereditary ovarian cancer risk. [22:55 minutes]
  • Treatment options for platinum drug refractory/resistant ovarian cancer. [25:27 minutes]
  • Treatment of BRCA gene-mutated ovarian cancer patients. [27:50 minutes]
  • Ovarian cancer prevention. [30:18 minutes]
  • Promising treatments for ovarian clear cell cancer. [31:43 minutes]
  • Proper nutrition during and after ovarian cancer treatment. [33:47 minutes]
  • Symptoms associated with an ovarian cancer recurrence. [35:06 minutes]
  • Ovarian neuroendocrine cancer. [36:16 minutes]
  • Small-cell ovarian cancer. [39:22 minutes]
  • Origin of ovarian cancer. [42:41 minutes]
  • Treatment options for isolated or limited recurrent ovarian cancer tumors/lesions. [45:26 minutes]
  • Closing: Most Exciting Ovarian Cancer Developments. [47:07 minutes]

 

U.S. President Barack Obama Proclaims September 2014 As National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month — What Should You Know?

Today, U.S. President Barack Obama designated September 2014 as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. “This month, our Nation stands with everyone who has been touched by this disease, and we recognize all those committed to advancing the fight against this cancer through research, advocacy, and quality care. Together, let us renew our commitment to reducing the impact of ovarian cancer and to a future free from cancer in all its forms.”

WhiteHouse-LogoToday, U.S. President Barack Obama designated September 2014 as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. The Presidential Proclamation is reproduced in full below.

During National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Libby’s H*O*P*E*™ will continue to honor the women who have lost their lives to the disease (including our own Elizabeth “Libby” Remick), support those who are currently battling the disease, and celebrate with those who have beaten the disease. This month, medical doctors, research scientists, and ovarian cancer advocates renew their commitment to develop a reliable early screening test, improve current treatments, discover new groundbreaking therapies, and ultimately, defeat the most lethal gynecologic cancer.

Let us begin this month with several important facts relating to ovarian cancer. Please take time to review these facts — they may save your life or that of a loved one.

didyouknow

Ovarian Cancer Facts

Lethality. Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.

Statistics. In 2014, the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that there will be approximately 21,980 new ovarian cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S. ACS estimates that 14,270 U.S. women will die from the disease, or about 39 women per day or 1-to-2 women every hour. This loss of life is equivalent to 28 Boeing 747 jumbo jet crashes with no survivors — each and every year.

Signs & Symptoms. Ovarian cancer is not a “silent” disease; it is a “subtle” disease. Recent studies indicate that women with ovarian cancer are more like to experience four persistent, nonspecific symptoms as compared with women in the general population, such as (i) bloating, (ii) pelvic or abdominal pain, (iii) difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, or (iv) urinary urgency or frequency. Women who experience such symptoms daily for more than a few weeks should seek prompt medical evaluation. Note: Several other symptoms have been commonly reported by women with ovarian cancer. These symptoms include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation and menstrual irregularities. However, these additional symptoms are not as useful in identifying ovarian cancer because they are also found in equal frequency in women within the general population who do not have the disease.

Age. Although the median age of a woman with ovarian cancer at initial diagnosis is 63, the disease cancer can afflict adolescent, young adult, and mature women. Ovarian cancer does not discriminate based upon age.

Prevention. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, long-term use of oral contraceptives, and tubal ligation reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Risk Factors.

  • BRCA Gene Mutations. Women who have had breast cancer, or who have a family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer may have increased risk. Women who test positive for inherited mutations in the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 gene have an increased lifetime risk of breast and ovarian cancer. A women can inherit a mutated BRCA gene from her mother or father. Women of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish ancestry are at higher risk (1 out of 40) for inherited BRCA gene mutations. Studies suggest that preventive surgery to remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes in women possessing BRCA gene mutations can decrease the risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Lynch Syndrome. An inherited genetic condition called “hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer” (also called “Lynch syndrome“), which significantly increases the risk of colon/rectal cancer (and also increases the risk of other types of cancers such as endometrial (uterine), stomach, breast, small bowel (intestinal), pancreatic, urinary tract, liver, kidney, and bile duct cancers), also increases ovarian cancer risk.
  • Hormone Therapy. The use of estrogen alone menopausal hormone therapy may increase ovarian cancer risk. The longer estrogen alone replacement therapy is used, the greater the risk may be. The increased risk is less certain for women taking both estrogen and progesterone, although a large 2009 Danish study involving over 900,000 women suggests that combination hormone therapy may increase risk. Because some health benefits have been identified with hormone replacement therapy, a women should seek her doctor’s advice regarding risk verses benefit based on her specific factual case.
  • Smoking. Smoking has been linked to an increase in mucinous epithelial ovarian cancer.

Early Detection. There is no reliable screening test for the detection of early stage ovarian cancer. Pelvic examination only occasionally detects ovarian cancer, generally when the disease is advanced. A Pap smear cannot detect ovarian cancer. However, the combination of a thorough pelvic exam, transvaginal ultrasound, and a blood test for the tumor marker CA-125 may be offered to women who are at high risk of ovarian cancer and to women who have persistent, unexplained symptoms like those listed above. This early detection strategy has shown promise in a 2013 University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center early detection study involving over 4,000 women. Importantly, another large ovarian cancer screening trial that is using similar early detection methods is under way in the United Kingdom, with results expected in 2015. The U.K. study is called “UKCTOCS” (UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening) and involves over 200,000 women aged 50-74 years.

Treatment.

  • Treatment includes surgery and usually chemotherapy.
  • Surgery usually includes removal of one or both ovaries and fallopian tubes (salpingo-oophorectomy), the uterus (hysterectomy), and the omentum (fatty tissue attached to some of the organs in the belly), along with biopsies of the peritoneum (lining of the abdominal cavity) and peritoneal cavity fluid.
  • In younger women with very early stage tumors who wish to have children, removal of only the involved ovary and fallopian tube may be possible.
  • Among patients with early ovarian cancer, complete surgical staging has been associated with better outcomes.
  • For women with advanced disease, surgically removing all abdominal metastases larger than one centimeter (debulking) enhances the effect of chemotherapy and helps improve survival.
  • For women with stage III ovarian cancer that has been optimally debulked, studies have shown that chemotherapy administered both intravenously and directly into the abdomen (intraperitoneally) improves survival.
  • Patients can enter clinical trials at the start of, during the course of, and even after, their ovarian cancer treatment(s).
  • New types of treatment are being tested in ovarian and solid tumor clinical trials, including “biological therapy” and “targeted therapy.” For example, these types of treatment can exploit biological/molecular characteristics unique to an ovarian cancer patient’s specific tumor classification, or better “train” the patient’s own immune system to identify and attack her tumor cells, without harming normal cells.

Survival. 

  • If diagnosed at the localized stage, the 5-year ovarian cancer survival rate is 92%; however, only about 15% of all cases are detected at an early stage, usually fortuitously during another medical procedure. The majority of cases (61%) are diagnosed at a distant or later stage of the disease.
  • Overall, the 1-, 5-, and 10-year relative survival of ovarian cancer patients is 75%, 44%, and 34%, respectively.
  • The 10-year relative survival rate for all disease stages combined is only 38%.
  • Relative survival varies by age; women younger than 65 are twice as likely to survive 5 years (56%) following diagnosis as compared to women 65 and older (27%).

Help Spread the Word to “B-E-A-T” Ovarian Cancer

Please help us “B-E-A-T” ovarian cancer by spreading the word about the early warning signs & symptoms of the disease throughout the month of September.

beatlogo_308x196B = bloating that is persistent and does not come and go

E = eating less and feeling fuller

A =abdominal or pelvic pain

T = trouble with urination (urgency or frequency)

Women who have these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks should see their doctor. Prompt medical evaluation may lead to detection at the earliest possible stage of the disease. As noted above, early stage diagnosis is associated with an improved prognosis.

__________________________________________________________

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release August 29, 2014

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

obama_signing

Ovarian cancer is the most deadly of all female reproductive system cancers. This year nearly 22,000 Americans will be diagnosed with this cancer, and more than 14,000 will die from it. The lives of mothers and daughters will be taken too soon, and the pain of this disease will touch too many families. During National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, we honor the loved ones we have lost to this disease and all those who battle it today, and we continue our work to improve care and raise awareness about ovarian cancer.

When ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, treatment is most effective and the chances for recovery are greatest. But ovarian cancer is difficult to detect early — there is no simple and reliable way to screen for this disease, symptoms are often not clear until later stages, and most women are diagnosed without being at high risk. That is why it is important for all women to pay attention to their bodies and know what is normal for them. Women who experience unexplained changes — including abdominal pain, pressure, and swelling — should talk with their health care provider. To learn more about the risk factors and symptoms of ovarian cancer, Americans can visit www.Cancer.gov.

Regular health checkups increase the chance of early detection, and the Affordable Care Act expands this critical care to millions of women. Insurance companies are now required to cover well-woman visits, which provide women an opportunity to talk with their health care provider, and insurers are prohibited from charging a copayment for this service.

For the thousands of women affected by ovarian cancer, the Affordable Care Act also prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage due to a pre-existing condition, such as cancer or a family history of cancer; prevents insurers from denying participation in an approved clinical trial for any life-threatening disease; and eliminates annual and lifetime dollar limits on coverage. And as we work to ease the burden of ovarian cancer for today’s patients, my Administration continues to invest in the critical research that will lead to earlier detection, improved care, and the medical breakthroughs of tomorrow.

Ovarian cancer and the hardship it brings have affected too many lives. This month, our Nation stands with everyone who has been touched by this disease, and we recognize all those committed to advancing the fight against this cancer through research, advocacy, and quality care. Together, let us renew our commitment to reducing the impact of ovarian cancer and to a future free from cancer in all its forms.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2014 as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. I call upon citizens, government agencies, organizations, health care providers, and research institutions to raise ovarian cancer awareness and continue helping Americans live longer, healthier lives. I also urge women across our country to talk to their health care providers and learn more about this disease.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.

BARACK OBAMA

__________________________________________________________

Sources:

  • Cancer Facts & Figures 2014. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2014 [PDF file].
  • Presidential Proclamation — National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, 2013, Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, August 29, 2014.

Preclinical Testing Suggests That Apoptosis Protein Inhibitor AT-406 Is Effective Against Ovarian Cancer; Initial Phase I Solid Tumor Clinical Trial Ongoing

In preclinical testing, Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers demonstrated the anti-ovarian cancer effectiveness of AT-406, an inhibitor of apoptosis proteins, as a single agent and in the combination with carboplatin.  As of this writing, Ascenta Therapeutics is conducting an open and ongoing phase I clinical study in patients with advanced solid tumors and lymphomas.

Apoptosis Proteins: A Promising Target For Cancer Therapeutics?

Apoptosis increasing from normal cells (top) to apoptotic ones (bottom). (Photo: Wikipedia)

Human cells are programmed to survive, die or proliferate through a complex system of regulatory controls.  Apoptosis — also know as “programmed cell death” — is a precisely regulated, complex process through which normal cells in the body die after a given life span, ensuring that defective, damaged, or redundant cells are eliminated.

The human body use apoptosis, or programmed cell death, to eliminate abnormal or unwanted cells. As a result of accumulated genomic alterations, it seems that cancer cells often fail to execute an apoptotic program, which allows them to live indefinitely and grow uncontrollably. The breakdown of the cellular apoptosis regulatory machinery is sometimes a dominant characteristic of cancer. Many current cancer therapies, including chemotherapeutic agents, radiation, and immunotherapy, work by inducing apoptosis in cancer cells. However, because the normal apoptotic biological pathways are sometimes defective, many cancer cells are inherently resistant or develop resistance to various therapies.  An emerging direction for drug development involves the direct targeting of apoptotic proteins to induce cell death and/or reduce treatment resistance.

AT-406 — A New Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins — is Effective in Preclinical Testing Against Ovarian Cancer.

(Photo: University of Michigan Heath System)

AT-406 is a novel and orally-active small molecule drug designed to promote programmed cell death (apoptosis) in tumor cells by blocking the activity of inhibitors of apoptosis proteins (IAPs), including XIAP, c-IAP1, c-IAP2, and ML-IAP, to create conditions in which apoptosis can proceed.  Based on this designed activity, AT-406 is best described as a multi-IAP inhibitor. IAPs are key components of the complex cascade of protein signaling that activates enzymes (called “caspases“) to initiate the breakdown of the cancer cell. AT-406 is thought to mimic the activity of Smac (second mitochondria-derived activator of caspases) by binding to XIAP and preventing it from inhibiting caspase activation. Upon binding to cIAP1 and cIAP2, AT-406 induces rapid degradation of these proteins and promotes apoptosis through activation of the death-receptor complex and caspase 8.

Ascenta Therapeutics (Ascenta), the developer of AT-406, reported that the drug has already demonstrated single-agent antitumor activity in multiple preclinical xenograft models of human cancer, including breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer. Ascenta also noted that AT-406 has also been shown to work synergistically with conventional chemotherapeutic and targeted agents (such as TRAIL and tyrosine kinase inhibitors) in preclinical tumor models.

Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers evaluated AT-406 in ovarian cancer cells as a single agent, and in the combination with carboplatin, for therapeutic effectiveness and mechanism of action. The researchers reported that AT-406 had significant single agent activity in 60% of the human ovarian cancer cell lines examined in vitro, and inhibited ovarian cancer progression in vivo. Notably, three of the five carboplatin-resistant cell lines tested sensitive to AT-406, thereby highlighting the therapeutic potential of AT-406 for patients with inherent or acquired platinum drug resistance.

Additionally, the researchers also determined that AT-406 enhanced carboplatin-induced ovarian cancer cell death and increased the survival of the experimental in vivo test mice. This result suggests a synergy created by this two drug  combination, whereby AT-406 sensitizes the response of these cancer cells to carboplatin. From a mechanism of action perspective, the researchers demonstrated that AT-406 induced apoptosis correlated with the drug’s ability to down-regulate XIAP,  whereby AT-406 induces cIAP1 degradation in both AT-406 sensitive and resistant cell lines. Collectively, these results demonstrate, for the first time, the anti-ovarian cancer efficacy of AT-406 as a single agent and in the combination with carboplatin. The researchers believe that AT-406 may represent a novel therapy for ovarian cancer patients, especially for patients exhibiting resistance to the platinum-based therapies.

Initial Phase I Clinical Study of AT-406 in Patients With Advanced Solid Tumors & Lymphomas

Ascenta is currently conducting clinical trials of AT-406 within the U.S. in patients with a variety of solid tumors and lymphomas. As of this writing, Ascenta is conducting a phase I, dose-escalation, open-label, multi-center study (University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Mayo Clinic, and Duke University Medical Center) in patients with advanced solid tumors and lymphomas to evaluate the safety, tolerability and pharmacology of AT-406 when administered orally. The ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier Number for this trial is NCT01078649.

It is important to note that phase I trials usually enroll a small numbers of patients who have advanced cancer that cannot be treated effectively with standard treatments, or for which no standard treatment exists. Although evaluating the effectiveness of a drug is the primary goal of a phase II (not phase I) clinical study, medical investigators do look for evidence that the study treatment might be useful in a phase I clinical study.

Sources:

  • Brunckhorst MK, et al. AT-406, an orally active antagonist of multiple inhibitor of apoptosis proteins, inhibits progression of human ovarian cancer. Cancer Biol Ther. 2012 Jul 1;13(9). [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 22669575.
  • AT-406 Clinical Trial Protocol Summary: A Phase I, Open Label, Multi-Center, Dose Escalation Study of the Safety, Tolerability, Pharmacodynamic and Pharmacokinetic Properties of Orally Administered AT-406 in Patients With Advanced Solid Tumors and Lymphomas; ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01078649.

U.K. Researchers Launch Clinical Trial of Mercaptopurine (6-MP) In Women with Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer

A Cancer Research UK-funded clinical trial of a new drug for patients with advanced breast or ovarian cancer due to inherited BRCA gene mutations has been launched at the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre at the University of Oxford.

A Cancer Research UK-funded trial of a new drug for patients with advanced breast or ovarian cancer due to inherited BRCA gene faults has been launched at the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre at the University of Oxford (OxFord ECMC).

Mutations in the BRCA 1 (BReast CAncer-1) and BRCA 2 genes are thought to account for around 2-5 percent of all breast cancer cases. Women carrying the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation have a 45-65 percent chance of developing breast cancer, and a 20-45 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer, by the age of 70. Genetic testing for faulty BRCA genes is available for women with a very strong family history.

DNA damage, due to environmental factors and normal metabolic processes inside the cell, occurs at a rate of 1,000 to 1,000,000 molecular lesions per cell per day. A special enzyme (shown above in color), encircles the double helix to repair a broken strand of DNA. Without molecules that can mend DNA single strand and double strand breaks, cells can malfunction, die, or become cancerous. (Photo: Courtesy of Tom Ellenberger, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis)

Cells lacking a properly functioning BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene  are less able to repair DNA damage. These defective cells are more sensitive to (i) platinum-based chemotherapy drugs such as cisplatin – which work by causing double-stranded DNA breaks, and (ii) PARP inhibitors, a newer class of drugs which prevent cells lacking a properly functioning BRCA gene from being able to repair damaged DNA. PARP inhibitors have shown promise in clinical trials but, as with most drugs, resistance can develop meaning some women can stop responding.

This trial, led by a team based at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, is looking at a drug called “6MP” (a/k/a mercaptopurine; brand name: Purinethol), which is already used to treat leukemia and is often given in combination with another chemotherapy drug called “methotrexate.”

Earlier studies involving cells grown in the laboratory suggest that a class of drugs called “thiopurines,” which includes 6MP, are effective at killing cancer cells lacking BRCA – a gene which significantly increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer – even after they have developed resistance to treatments like PARP inhibitors and cisplatin.

This trial is one of a growing number looking at matching patients to the most appropriate treatment based on their genetic makeup and that of their cancer – an approach known as “personalized medicine.”

If successful, the results will pave the way for a larger Phase 3 clinical trial, which could lead to an additional treatment option for the 15 out of every 100 women with breast and ovarian cancers, which are caused by faults in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.

Trial leader Dr. Shibani Nicum, a gynecology specialist based at the Oxford ECMC, and a researcher in Oxford University’s Department of Oncology, said: “PARP inhibitors are a powerful new class of drugs developed specifically to target tumors caused by BRCA 1 and BRCA2 faults, but drug resistance remains a problem. We hope that the very encouraging results we have seen in early laboratory studies involving 6MP will lead to increased treatment options for these patients in the future.”

U.K. trial participant Suzanne Cole, 54, from Newbury, has a strong history of ovarian cancer in her family, with her sister, mother and grandmother all having been diagnosed with suspected cases of the disease at a relatively young age. But, it was not until many years later, after she herself was diagnosed with cancer, that doctors were able to trace the cause of this back to a BRCA1 mutation in her family.

Suzanne Cole said: “I was diagnosed in 2009 and initially had surgery then chemotherapy. I was then told about the trial and I went away and studied the information. The doctors were able to answer all my questions and then I agreed to sign up. I’m happy to be a part of this work as it could help others by moving treatments forward.”

Professor Mark Middleton, director of the Oxford ECMC, said: “It’s exciting to see drugs being developed for specific groups of patients who share the same underlying genetic faults in their cancer. Targeted treatments are at the cutting edge of cancer care and we’re proud to be involved in bringing such drugs a step closer to the clinic.”

Dr. Sally Burtles, Cancer Research UK’s director of the ECMC Network, said: “This study helps demonstrate the value of being able to pool subsets of patients who share specific rare faults in their tumor from a UK-wide network of Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres. This will be crucial as we move towards a new era of personalized medicine with treatments targeted according to the individual biological profile of a patient’s cancer.”

For more information on the trial, please visit www.cancerhelp.org.uk, or call the Cancer Research UK cancer information nurses on 0808-800-4040.

Sources:

  • Researchers trial new drug for women with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, Press Release, Cancer Research UK, August 17, 2011.
  • Issaeva N, et al. 6-thioguanine selectively kills BRCA2-defective tumors and overcomes PARP inhibitor resistance. Cancer Res. 2010 Aug 1;70(15):6268-76. Epub 2010 Jul 14. PubMed PMID: 20631063; PubMed PMCID: PMC2913123.

FDA Approves Clinical Protocol for Additional Phase 1 Study of TKM-PLK1 in Primary Liver Cancer or Liver Metastases

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the clinical protocol for an additional Phase 1 study of TKM-PLK1 in patients with either primary liver cancer or liver metastases associated with select cancers including ovarian.

RNA Interference

Nucleic acids are molecules that carry genetic information and include DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and RNA (ribonucleic acid). Together these molecules form the building blocks of life. DNA contains the genetic code or “blueprint” used in the development and functioning of all living organisms, while one type of RNA (i.e., “messenger RNA” or mRNA) helps to translate that genetic code into proteins by acting as a messenger between the DNA instructions located in the cell nucleus and the protein synthesis which takes place in the cell cytoplasm (i.e., outside the cell nucleus, but inside the outer cell membrane). Accordingly, DNA is first copied or transcribed into mRNA, which, in turn, gets translated or synthesized into protein.

The molecular origin of many diseases results from either the absence or over-production of specific proteins. “RNA interference” (RNAi) is a mechanism through which gene expression is inhibited at the translation stage, thereby disrupting the protein production. RNAi is considered one of the most important discoveries in the field of molecular biology. Andrew Fire, Ph.D., and Craig C. Mello, Ph.D. shared the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for work that led to the discovery of the RNAi mechanism.  Because many diseases – cancer, metabolic, infectious and others – are caused by the inappropriate activity of specific genes, the ability to silence genes selectively through RNAi offers the potential to revolutionize the way we treat disease and illness by creating a new class of drugs aimed at eliminating specific gene-products or proteins from the cell. RNAi has been convincingly demonstrated in preclinical models of oncology, influenza, hepatitis, high cholesterol, diabetes, macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease.

Small Interfering RNA 

While the mechanism itself is termed “RNAi,” the therapeutic agents that exert the effect are known as “small interfering RNAs” or siRNAs. Sequencing of the human genome has provided the information needed to design siRNA therapeutics directed against a wide range of disease-causing proteins. Based on the mRNA sequence for the target protein, a siRNA therapeutic can be designed relatively quickly compared to the time needed to synthesize and screen conventional small molecule drugs. Moreover, siRNA-based therapeutics are able to bind to a target protein mRNA with great specificity. When siRNA are introduced into the cell cytoplasm they are rapidly incorporated into an “RNA-induced silencing complex” (RISC) and guided to the target protein mRNA, which is then cut and destroyed, preventing the subsequent production of the target protein. The RISC can remain stable inside the cell for weeks, destroying many more copies of the target mRNA and maintaining target protein suppression for long periods of time.

To our knowledge, there are no siRNAs approved yet for medical use outside of a clinical trial, however, a number of R&D initiatives and clinical trials are currently underway, with one of the main areas of research focused on delivery. Because siRNAs are large, unstable molecules, they are unable to access target cells. Delivery technology is required to stabilize these drugs in the human blood stream, allow efficient delivery to the target cells, and facilitate uptake and release into the cell cytoplasm. Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation, a leading developer of RNAi therapeutics has focused its research on identifying lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) that can overcome the challenges of delivering siRNAs.

TKM-PLK1 

TKM-PLK1 is being developed as a novel anti-tumor drug in the treatment of cancer. LNPs are particularly well suited for the delivery of siRNA to treat cancer because the lipid nanoparticles preferentially accumulate within tissues and organs having leaky blood vessels, such as cancerous tumors. Once at the target site, LNPs are taken up by tumor cells and the siRNA payload is delivered inside the cell where it reduces expression of the target protein. Through careful selection of the appropriate molecular targets, LNPs are designed to have potent anti-tumor activity yet be well tolerated by healthy tissue adjacent to the tumor.

Tekmira has taken advantage of this passive targeting effect to develop an siRNA directed against PLK1 (polo-like kinase 1), a protein involved in tumor cell proliferation. Inhibition of PLK1 prevents the tumor cell from completing cell division, resulting in cell cycle arrest and cell death.

Because the standard of care for cancer treatment often involves the use of drug combination therapies, Tekmira has selected gene targets for its oncology applications that synergize with conventional drugs that are currently in use. TKM-PLK1 has the potential to provide both direct tumor cell killing and sensitization of tumor cells to the effects of chemotherapy drugs.

Phase 1 Study of TKM-PLK1 in Primary Liver Cancer or Liver Metastases

Tekmira, along with its collaborators at the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI), announced that they have received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to proceed with a new Phase 1 clinical trial for Tekmira’s lead oncology product, TKM-PLK1. This trial, run in parallel with the ongoing Phase 1 trial of TKM-PLK1 (for adult patients with solid tumors or lymphomas that are refractory to standard therapy), provides Tekmira with an early opportunity to validate the mechanism of drug action.

“Patients in this new study, who will have either primary liver cancer or liver metastases, will receive TKM-PLK1 delivered directly into the liver via Hepatic Artery Infusion (HAI). The trial design will allow us to measure tumor delivery, polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1) messenger RNA knockdown, and RNA interference (RNAi) activity in tumor biopsies from all of the patients treated,” said Dr. Mark J. Murray, Tekmira’s President and CEO.

“This NCI clinical trial will run in parallel with our multi-center TKM-PLK1 solid tumor Phase 1 trial, currently underway at three centers in the United States. Working together on this clinical trial with our collaborators at the NCI will allow us to develop an even more robust data package to inform subsequent TKM-PLK1 development. We expect to have interim TKM-PLK1 clinical data before the end of 2011,” added Dr. Murray.

The NCI trial is a Phase 1 multiple-dose, dose escalation study testing TKM-PLK1 in patients with unresectable colorectal, pancreatic, gastric, breast, ovarian and esophageal cancers with liver metastases, or primary liver cancers. These patients represent a significant unmet medical need as they are not well served by currently approved treatments.

The primary objectives of the trial include evaluation of the feasibility of administering TKM-PLK1 via HAI, and characterization of the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of TKM-PLK1. Pharmacodynamic measurements will examine the effect of the drug on the patient’s tumors, specifically aiming to confirm PLK1 knockdown and RNAi activity. Typically reserved for later stage trials, pharmacodynamic measurements are facilitated in this Phase 1 trial in part through the unique capabilities of the NCI Surgery Branch. Secondary objectives of the trial include establishing maximum tolerated dose and to evaluate response rate.

About the National Cancer Institute

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is one of 27 institutes and centers under the oversight of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), and is the primary cancer medical research agency in the U.S. The TKM-PLK1 trial will involve investigators at the NCI’s Center for Cancer Research (CCR) on the main NIH campus located in Bethesda, Maryland. The CCR is home to more than 250 scientists and clinicians working in intramural research at the NCI. CCR’s investigators include some of the worlds most experienced basic, clinical, and translational scientists who work together to advance our knowledge of cancer and develop new therapies.

About TKM-PLK1

TKM-PLK1 targets polo-like kinase 1, or PLK1, a cell cycle protein involved in tumor cell proliferation and a validated oncology target. Cancer patients whose tumors express high levels of PLK1 have a relatively poor prognosis. Inhibition of PLK1 prevents tumor cells from completing cell division, resulting in cell cycle arrest and cancer cell death.

About RNAi and Tekmira’s LNP Technology

RNAi therapeutics have the potential to treat a broad number of human diseases by “silencing” disease causing genes. The discoverers of RNAi, a gene silencing mechanism used by all cells, were awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. RNAi therapeutics, such as “siRNAs,” require delivery technology to be effective systemically. LNP technology is one of the most widely used siRNA delivery approaches for systemic administration. Tekmira’s LNP technology (formerly referred to as “stable nucleic acid-lipid particles” or SNALP) encapsulates siRNAs with high efficiency in uniform lipid nanoparticles which are effective in delivering RNAi therapeutics to disease sites in numerous preclinical models. Tekmira’s LNP formulations are manufactured by a proprietary method which is robust, scalable and highly reproducible and LNP-based products have been reviewed by multiple FDA divisions for use in clinical trials. LNP formulations comprise several lipid components that can be adjusted to suit the specific application.

About Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation

Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation is a biopharmaceutical company focused on advancing novel RNAi therapeutics and providing its leading lipid nanoparticle delivery technology to pharmaceutical partners. Tekmira has been working in the field of nucleic acid delivery for over a decade and has broad intellectual property covering LNPs. Further information about Tekmira can be found at www.tekmirapharm.com. Tekmira is based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Source

Clinical Trial Information

  • A Phase 1 Dose Escalation Study to Determine the Safety, Pharmacokinetics, and Pharmacodynamics of Intravenous TKM-080301 [a/k/a TKM-PLK1 or PLK1 SNALP] in Patients With Advanced Solid Tumors [or Lymphomas], ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01262235. [Note: This clinical trial summary relates to the ongoing Phase 1 TKM-PLK1  solid tumor clinical trial. We will post the second Phase 1 TKM-PLK1 clinical trial summary with respect to primary liver cancer and liver metastases once it becomes publicly available]
Additional Information
  • Wang J, et al. Delivery of siRNA therapeutics: barriers and carriers. AAPS J. 2010 Dec;12(4):492-503. Epub 2010 Jun 11. Review. PubMed PMID: 20544328; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2977003.

2011 Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America Report Lists 58 Drugs in Development For Ovarian Cancer

Currently, 851 medicines are in development for diseases that exclusively or disproportionately affect women, according to a report unveiled today by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Currently, 851 medicines are in development for diseases that exclusively or disproportionately affect women, according to a report unveiled today by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).  The medicines in the pipeline for women (either in human clinical trials or awaiting review by the Food and Drug Administration) include:

• 139 for cancers affecting women, including 91 for breast cancer, 49 for ovarian cancer,[1] and 9 for cervical cancer.

• 114 for arthritis/musculoskeletal disorders. Approximately 46 million Americans have some type of arthritis or related condition, and 60 percent of them are female.

• 64 for obstetric/gynecologic conditions.

• 110 for autoimmune diseases, which strike women three times more than men.

• 72 for depression and anxiety. Almost twice as many women as men suffer from these disorders.

• 83 for Alzheimer’s disease. Two-thirds (3.4 million) of the 5.4 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s today are women.

The Drug Discovery Process

Ovarian cancer affected an estimated 21,880 U.S. women in 2010 and caused an estimated 13,850 deaths.  The PhRMA report highlighted a potential first-in-class ovarian cancer drug (volasertib/BI 6727) in development which works by selectively inhibiting the polo-like kinase-1 (PLK-1), an enzyme crucial for cell division. PLK-1 is expressed in proliferating cells and most tumors. Inhibiting its activity disrupts cell division, which induces cell death and reduces cancer growth.

The ovarian cancer drugs listed in the PhRMA report are listed below by name (brand name, if available, and generic name), manufacturer, and phase of clinical testing. The ovarian cancer drugs listed in the “Cancer” section of the PhRMA report are set forth below:[2]

A6, Angstrom Pharmaceuticals, Phase II.

Abagovomab (anti-idiotype ovarian cancer vaccine)(Orphan Drug), Menarini, Phase I/II.

Abraxane®/albumin-bound paclitaxel, Celgene, Phase II.

ABT-888/veliparib, Abbott Laboratories, Phase II.

AE-37, Antigen Express, Phase I.

Afinitor®/everolimus, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Phase I/II.

AMG 386, Amgen, Phase III.

AMG 479, Amgen, Phase II.

Avastin®, bevacizumab, Genentech, Phase III.

BC-819, BioCancell Therapeutics, Phase I/II.

Catumaxomab, Fresenius Biotech, Phase II.

CVac™/MUC-2 cancer vaccine, Prima BioMed, Phase II.

DCVax®-L/ovarian cancer vaccine, Northwest Biotherapeutics, Phase I.

DPX-0907, Immunovaccine, Phase I.

EC-145, Endocyte, Phase II.

EGEN-001 (Orphan Drug), EGEN, Phase I/II.

ENMD-2076, EntreMed, Phase II.

Estybon™/ON-01910.Na, Onconova Therapeutics, Phase II.

Evizon™/squalamine, OHR Pharmaceuticals, Phase II.

farletuzumab/MORAb-003, Eisai, Phase III.

iboctadekin, GlaxoSmithKline, Phase I.

IMT-1012/immunotherapeutic vaccine, Immunotope, Phase I.

iniparib/BSI-201, BiPar Sciences/sanofi-aventis, Phase II.

Karenitecin®/cositecan, BioNumerik Pharmaceuticals, Phase III.

KHK-2866, Kyowa Hakko Kirin Pharma, Phase I.

lenvatinib/E7080, Eisai, Phase II.

MK-2206, Merck, Phase I.

Nexavar®/sorafenib, Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals/Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Phase II.

NKTR-102, Nektar Therapeutics, Phase II.

NOV-002, Novelos Therapeutics, Phase II.

OGX-427, Oncogenex Pharmaceuticals, Phase I.

olaparib/AZD2281, AstraZeneca, Phase II.

Opaxio™/paclitaxel poliglumex, Cell Therapeutics/Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Phase III.

Optisome™/topetecan liposomal, Talon Therapeutics, Phase I.

Oregovomab, Quest Pharmatech, Phase I/II.

OSI-906/linsitinib, OSI Pharmaceuticals, Phase II.

OVax®/ovarian cancer vaccine (Orphan Drug), AVAX Technologies, Phase I/II.

Perifosine/KRX-0401, AEterna Zentaris/Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, Phase I.

PF-01367338, Pfizer, Phase II.

Phenoxodiol (next generation drug will be NV-143), Marshall Edwards, Phase III.

Picoplatin intravenous, Poniard Pharmaceuticals, Phase II.

Quinamed®/amonafide, ChemGenex Pharmaceuticals, Phase II.

Ramucirumab/IMC-1121-B, Eli Lilly/ImClone, Phase I.

Ridaforolimus, Merck/Ariad Pharmaceuticals, Phase I.

Sagopilone, Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, Phase II.

SAR256212/MM-121, Merrimack Pharmaceuticals/sanofi-aventis, Phase I.

SG2000, Spirogen, Phase II.

Sprycel®/dasatinib, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Phase

Tarceva®/erlotinib, Genentech, Phase II.

Telcyta®/canfosfimide, Telik, Phase III.

Tigatuzumab, Daiichi Sankyo, Phase II.

Tykerb®/lapatinib, GlaxoSmithKline, Phase I/II.

Volasertib, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Phase II.

Volociximab, Bigen Idec/Facet Biotech, Phase II.

Vosaroxin™/SNS-595, Sunesis Pharmaceuticals, Phase II.

Votrient®/pazopanib, GlaxoSmithKline, Phase III.

Zolinza®/vorinostat, Merck, Phase II.

Zybrestat™/fosbretabulin, OXiGENE, Phase II.

References:

1/The 2011 PhRMA report lists 49 ovarian cancer drugs in development.  After comparing the entire “Cancer” drug list set forth on pages 16 – 24 of the PhRMA report to the ovarian cancer clinical trials provided at http://www.clinicaltrials.gov, we determined that an additional nine drugs appearing on the PhRMA cancer drug list are being tested in ovarian cancer clinical trials.

2/Please note that the PhRMA cancer drug list does not set forth all ovarian cancer drugs in development.  For a list of all open ovarian cancer clinical trials listed at www.clinicaltrials.gov, click here.

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