Have you ever sat in a freezing cold scientific session and been so engrossed in the compelling presentations that followed, you simply forgot to take notes? Not one. That actually happened to me at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Philadelphia this year in one of the many fringe sessions that I attended.
Reading Terminal Clock, Philadelphia
Granted, the hot topic of the conference was undoubtedly checkpoint inhibition, but I was anxious to escape to the comfort of some meaty and familiar basic and translational science, namely MYC. MYC is largely thought to be a difficult to target, even undruggable protein, and along with RAS and p53, represents a formidable challenge for cancer researchers. These three oncogenic proteins alone are probably responsible for more drug resistance developing and even death from cancer than any other proteins in a patient with advanced disease.
For cancer patients with advanced disease, the clock is ticking on time they have left.
Solve these three problems (MYC, RAS and p53) and we may have a shot at dramatically improving outcomes. As Dr Gerard Evans (Cambridge) noted:
“I think it’s fair to say that we don’t really know why interruption of any oncogenic signal actually kills cancer cells, but one of the reasons that we’re interested in MYC is because it seems to be a common downstream effector of many, maybe all cancers.”
Sure, the road to success is paved with an enormous graveyard of failures, just as metastatic melanoma was before checkpoint blockade came along, ironically. What I heard at AACR both inspired and filled me with greater confidence… we’re finally getting somewhere.
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Yesterday saw the news that Tokai Pharmaceuticals ($TKAI) have filed plans for a $75M IPO, largely based on the potential of their phase 2 prostate cancer compound, galeterone.
My first reaction on seeing this was $75M – that’s a pretty small number.
It’s been many years since I project managed drug development trials but $75M does not go a long way if you want to run a global phase 3 program. It’s certainly pails into insignificance in comparison to the recent $308M raised by Juno in Series A & B financing.
A cynical view would be to see this as the initial investors looking for a ‘save face’ exit strategy. Tokai have spent the last 10 years seeking to bring a novel prostate cancer drug to market, and they are still only in phase 2. To put this in perspective, they were initially ahead of Medivation!
Fast forward 10 years and the prostate market is now highly competitive, with other new products ahead of galeterone in development including next generation androgen receptor antagonists: ARN-509 (acquired by JNJ from Aragon) and ODM-201 (Bayer/Orion). We’ve also seen a several drugs that showed promise in phase 2, fall by the way side in phase 3; dasatinib from BMS and Orteronel (TAK-700) from Takeda/Millennium readily come to mind. Caveat emptor!
At ASCO 2014, there was a lot of interesting data in the oral prostate cancer session, which provided insights into the challenges (in addition to the competition) and opportunities that may exist for galeterone.
I have no intention of taking any future position in $TKAI. This piece offers no recommendation on whether you should invest or not.
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Galeterone (Tokai Pharmaceuticals) is a new prostate cancer drug in development that has an interesting triple mechanism of action in that like abiraterone (Zytiga) it acts as a CYP17 lyase inhibitor, but it also acts as an androgen receptor (AR) inhibitor and is an AR degrading drug that decreases AR levels.
How effective it is compared to AR antagonists on the market such as enzalutamide (Medivation) or second-generation AR antagonists in development such as ARN-509 (Aragon Pharmaceuticals) or ODM-201 (Orion Pharma) is one of the many unanswered questions with this drug.