MD Anderson–led alliance seeks to advance leukemia drug development


The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, and Ascentage Pharma of Suzhou, China, recently formed a 5-year strategic alliance to advance the development of novel cancer therapeutics, primarily for leukemia.

The collaboration, led by Hagop Kantarjian, MD, chair of leukemia at MD Anderson, will use Ascentage’s proprietary Protein-Protein Interaction drug discovery technology platform to develop the company’s apoptosis-targeted and tyrosine kinase inhibitor drug candidates.

The drug candidates will be studied as single-agent therapies and in combinations with other approved or investigational therapeutics. The candidates, chosen for their potential to treat acute myeloid leukemia (AML), chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), myeloproliferative neoplasms, and myelofibrosis, include:

  • HQP1351, a third-generation BCR-ABL inhibitor that has been shown to be safe and “highly active” in treating patients with chronic- or accelerated-phase CML, with or without the T3151 mutation. Preliminary results of the phase 1 study were presented at the 2018 annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (Abstract 791).
  • APG-1252, a highly potent Bcl-2 family inhibitor, has high binding affinities to Bcl-2, Bcl-xL and Bcl-w. It has achieved tumor regression in small cell lung cancer, colon, breast, and ALL xenografts. A phase 1, dose-escalating study is currently being conducted (NCT03387332).
  • APG-2575, a selective Bcl-2 inhibitor, is being studied in a phase 1, multicenter, single-agent trial in patients with B-cell hematologic malignancies, including multiple myeloma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphomas, and AML (NCT03537482).
  • APG-1387, an inhibitor of apoptosis protein, is being studied in solid tumors and hematologic malignancies (NCT03386526). Investigators asserted that combining it with an anti–programmed death 1 antibody would be “a very attractive approach” for cancer therapy. In advanced solid tumors it has been well tolerated with manageable adverse events, according to a study presented at the 2018 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (Abstract 2593).
  • APG-115 is an MDM2-p53 inhibitor that, when combined with radiotherapy, has been shown to enhance the antitumor effect in gastric adenocarcinoma, according to a paper published in the Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research.

“We will be investigating this pipeline of candidate therapies, and we are interested in the novel mechanism of their actions,” Dr. Kantarjian said in a statement.

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