Archive for Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Deciphera leukemia drug trials extend to KU Cancer Center

April 20, 2011

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A Lawrence-based company’s first cancer-fighting drug to reach human clinical trials is returning promising results as its testing expands to the Kansas University Cancer Center.

Deciphera Pharmaceuticals LLC’s drug, known as DCC-2036, has been documented as effective against human leukemia cells and also has killed malignant cells and prolonged survival in a mouse model, as reported in the April issue of Cancer Cell, a journal.

Human clinical trials are continuing, with about 30 patients in all, at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the University of Michigan Cancer Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The Kansas University Cancer Center, which is pursuing designation by the National Cancer Institute as a national cancer center, recently joined the phase I clinical trials. The trials are focused on patients who have developed resistance to standard treatments for chronic myelogenous leukemia.

The disease strikes about 5,000 people each year, and after standard treatment, about a third suffer a relapse in which the disease becomes resistant to traditional therapy. That’s where Deciphera’s drug candidate is going to work, striving to block an enzyme that otherwise would instruct the leukemia cells to grow.

“The patients we’re seeing really have no other recourse available to them outside of a complete bone marrow transplant,” said Daniel Flynn, Deciphera’s president and CEO.

Flynn said that Deciphera, with about 30 employees in its headquarters and lab space at 643 Mass., aims to expand its approach to another form of leukemia and, eventually, to solid tumors. The company also has a research partnership with Eli Lilly and Co., plus another proprietary drug candidate in preclinical development to attack gastro-intestinal cancers.

“We have a pipeline over here,” Flynn said. “Now the excitement is how we manage that pipeline.”

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