Australian drug development company Noxopharm has announced it is joining with Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) in a pilot study designed to investigate the ability of Veyonda, Noxopharm’s immunotherapy drug candidate, to overcome resistance to BMS’s nivolumab (branded Opdivo) in cancer treatment.
Veyonda is a first-in-class sphingosine-1-phosphate inhibitor with high selectivity for cancer cells, a mechanism of action that reportedly yields a range of immunotherapeutic effects including restoration of immune function in tumors.
The study, named IONIC-1, will investigate the ability of Veyonda to sensitize tumors to the PD-1 inhibiting actions of Opdivo. The study team plans to start in early 2021 enrolling approximately 30 cancer patients (with melanoma, lung, and bladder cancers) including patients that have progressed on Opdivo, as well as Opdivo-naive patients with breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers, and sarcoma.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors such as Opdivo reportedly have benefited the treatment of some cancers, but most cancer types to date have proven to be resistant. Research points to a key limiting factor as being the lack of competent immune function within cancer, with individual tumors actively expelling immune cells; restoring that immune function is a goal shared by many pharma firms and development partners.
Graham Kelly, Noxopharm CEO and founder, told Outsourcing-Pharma that researchers hope the study results will lead to improved outcomes for oncology patients.
“The limited response rate in most patients to checkpoint inhibitors (PD-1/PD-L1/CDT4) is not limited to Opdivo, but is a challenge for all such drugs; it is thought to be due, at least in part, to lack of immune function within most human tumors,” he said. “By repopulating these tumors with active T cells, Veyonda is expected to reverse this resistance.”
Principal investigator Paul De Souza, dean of medicine at the University of Wollongong, said the research stands to benefit oncological patients.
“Checkpoint inhibitors have made a tremendous difference to some patients with advanced cancer," he said. “If we can increase the number of patients that respond through the addition of Veyonda to their treatment regimen, we will make a significant impact, not only to those individuals, but also on the oncology landscape.”