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3 August, 2022 - 14:34 By Tony Quested

New drug hope unveiled for under-resourced cancers

Sosei Heptares, whose European R & D nervecentre is in Cambridge, is being backed by Cancer Research UK to fast-track a cancer immunotherapy drug candidate into a first-in-human trial.

Under the Clinical Trial and Licence Agreement, Cancer Research UK’s Centre for Drug Development will sponsor, design and execute a Phase I/IIa clinical trial of HTL00397322 – a novel selective EP4 antagonist.

Sosei Heptares will be responsible for CTA enabling activities, including GLP toxicology, IMP manufacture and other necessary pre-clinical studies in preparation for the opening of the clinical trial. 

The company holds a licence to the results generated under the trial to continue the clinical development and commercialisation of  HTL0039732. HTL0039732 has been proposed for a range of cancers including microsatellite stable colorectal, gastroesophageal, head and neck and castrate resistant prostate cancer.

Many people with these types of cancer have missed out on the benefits that common immunotherapies, such as PD1/L1 checkpoint inhibitors, have brought to other cancer types. The hope is that this trial could find that HTL0039732 is an effective immunotherapy for these under-served patient populations.

HTL0039732 is a type of immunotherapy known as an EP4 antagonist, which means it selectively binds and blocks a specific type of prostaglandin receptor called EP4. 

Prostaglandin E2 mediated signalling through EP4 can trigger cancer cells to evade the immune system and can also influence tumour cell growth. Blocking this type of receptor may therefore improve patient survival, especially if used in combination with another immunotherapy.

The director of Cancer Research UK’s Centre for Drug Development, Dr Nigel Blackburn, said: “People with these cancer types have, to date, largely missed out on some of the remarkable advances in the field of immunotherapy.

“We are therefore thrilled to be partnering with Sosei Heptares to bring its novel immunotherapy candidate into human trials. The hope is that with more trials like this all cancer patients will eventually be able to benefit from this potentially life-saving form of cancer treatment.”

Matt Barnes, president of Heptares Therapeutics and head of UK R & D, added: “We are extremely pleased to collaborate with Cancer Research UK to advance HTL0039732 into Phase I/IIa clinical trials and take a step towards bringing new treatments to cancer patients.”

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