Cell Therapeutics expands in cancer with SMi buy

By Dr Matt Wilkinson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cancer, Oncology

Cell Therapeutics has acquired oncology expert Systems Medicine
(SMi) in a deal worth up to $35m (€25.5m) that includes
worldwide rights to brostallicin that belongs to a new class of
cancer drugs.

The deal comprises a stock-for-stock merger valued at $20m, with Systems Medicine stockholders receiving up to $15m upon achievement of certain regulatory milestones. Systems Medicine will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cell Therapeutics and will use its genomics based platform to guide the development of both companies' oncology products. "Cell Therapeutics is one of a few companies that, like Systems Medicine, recognise the benefit of the convergence of genomics in guiding clinical trials,"​ noted Jeffrey Jacob CEO of Systems Medicine. "We believe this merger provides us and Cell Therapeutics with a unique critical mass in oncology drug development." ​ The acquisition will also give Cell Therapeutics access to the Translational Genomics Research Institute's (TGRI) genomic platform and high-throughput capabilities through the latter's strategic affiliation with Systems Medicine. This should allow Cell Therapeutics to target a cancer drug's 'context-of-vulnerability' and guide clinical trials towards indications that maximise a drugs chance of success, minimising the chances of failure. These capabilities should help Cell Therapeutics bolster its current pipeline which includes pixantrone and Xyotax (paclitaxel poliglumex) as well as brostallicin. While most small molecule anticancer drugs bind within DNA's major groove, brostallicin binds DNA within the minor groove interacting and interacting with DNA repair enzymes and transcription factors and interfering with different cell cycle processes which ultimately leads to tumour cell death. "Brostallicin belongs to an exciting new class of drugs called minor groove binders… [and] has a potentially unique ability to become more active in tumours that are resistant to other cancer drugs,"​ said Dr Jack Singer, chief medical officer at Cell Therapeutics. "Moreover, its anti-tumour activity remains high in the presence of a number of critical cancer- causing genetic abnormalities that cause resistance to standard anticancer agents. This activity profile makes it of extreme interest in designing trials to test its activity in targeted patients with certain genetic abnormalities." ​ The drug is currently in Phase II development, with more than 200 patients having been treated by the drug and is currently being tested in a first-line Phase II study for relapsed / refractory soft tissue sarcoma by the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC). Brostallicin was initially discovered by Pharmacia, but following the merger between Pfizer and Pharmacia the rights were transferred to Nerviano Medical Sciences when it was spun-out of the pharma giant. The development of the drug was continued at Nerviano before its rights were licensed to Systems Medicine. Brostallicin's chance of being a first in this new class of minor groove binding anticancer agents was dealt a serious blow yesterday by the announcement that PharmaMar's Yondelis (trabectedin) had received a positive opinion from the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) for the treatment of metastatic or advanced soft tissue sarcoma.

Related topics: Preclinical Research

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