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Trial Underway to Test Cancer Immunotherapy Aid

Cancer in headline


6 March 2017. A clinical trial began recruiting participants with advanced tumors to test a compound that helps treatments for cancer harnessing the immune system. The study, conducted by biotechnology company Deciphera Pharmaceuticals LLC in Waltham, Massachusetts, is testing its experimental drug code-named DCC-3014.

Deciphera Pharmaceuticals develops small molecule, or low molecular weight, drugs that act against enzymes encouraging the growth and spread of cancers. The company maintains a library of compounds designed to deactivate these enzymes and keep them switched off, and develops drugs from those compounds to address resistance to cancer therapies or inhibitors preventing the immune system from acting against cancer.

DCC-3014 is in the latter category, designed to target macrophages, white blood cells in the immune system that normally attack and absorb invading pathogens. In this case, cancer hijacks macrophages and uses them to keep the immune system from attacking the cancer. DCC-3014 acts against these hijacked macrophages by blocking a key protein known as colony stimulating factor 1, or CSF-1, receptor. These CSF-1 receptor proteins are found on the surface of many cell types, but with cancer the proteins cause macrophages to prevent rather than activate the immune system from fighting the cancer.

Deciphera designed DCC-3014 to stop macrophages acting as checkpoints that prevent the immune system from fighting tumors. The company says preclinical studies show DCC-3014 stops solid tumor growth working on its own or added to other checkpoint inhibitors in mice induced with colorectal or prostate cancer. The findings also show DCC-3014 works only on CSF-1 receptor proteins, and spares other related enzymes.

“Preclinical data from a number of cancer models have demonstrated that DCC-3014 has potent macrophage checkpoint inhibitory activity,” says Michael Taylor, Deciphera’s president in a company statement. “We believe DCC-3014 has great potential as a novel immunomodulatory agent and an important new therapy for cancer patients.”

The early-stage clinical trial is recruiting 55 individuals, age 16 and over, with advanced solid tumor cancers,  at Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville. The trial may also enroll some patients with blood-related cancers, such as leukemia. The study will evaluate DCC-3014’s safety at various dosage levels, looking for signs of adverse effects and seeking out the maximum tolerated dose. The trial is also tracking chemical activity of DCC-3014 in the body, as well as levels of white blood cells like macrophages dependent on CSF-1 receptor proteins.

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