Oncology company Prescient Therapeutics (ASX: PTX) has unveiled a potentially lucrative collaboration with Adelaide-based Carina Biotech to develop new Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell (CAR-T) targeted cell therapies to combat solid tumours.
According to Prescient, CAR-T cell therapy is a “ground-breaking approach” to cancer treatment that uses a cancer patient’s own immune system to target and attack treatment-resistant cancer.
The novel technique has already been used to outstanding effect against various blood cancers such as B-cell malignancies, but to-date has been less effective against haematological and solid cancers.
So far, early pre-clinical data generated from Carina’s CAR T-cells research has been “very positive” with high-profile names such as former chief scientist of South Australia Leanna Read, currently chairing the company.
Looking further afield, global medical and investor interest in CAR-T therapies has grown significantly over the past two years with pharma giants such as Novartis working on its Kymriah product and becoming the first gene therapy to receive US regulatory approval.
The therapy was also approved for use in Australia in December last year.
Another CAR-T cell therapy, Yescarta, was approved for use in the US for certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer that accounts for 4% of all cancers in the US and causes as many as 20,000 deaths every year, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Collaborating to develop effective CAR-T therapies
Prescient and Carina hope to evolve the application of CAR-T therapy to impact many solid tumours that currently have a lack of effective treatment options.
Given that many solid cancers have proven notoriously difficult to breach using immunotherapies like checkpoint inhibitors, the two companies are confident of developing commercially viable and effective therapies by combining their efforts.
Prescient already has two specific cancer treatments in its pipeline and currently going through clinical trials, namely, anti-cancer drug PTX-100 and a PH domain inhibitor called PTX-200.
Just last week, the oncology company announced it had commenced a phase 1b trial of PTX-100 and that it had enrolled patients with multiple cancer types. The first dosed patient was a multiple myeloma patient, who successfully completed a week of therapy with PTX-100 without any notable drug-related side effects.
According to Prescient, with solid tumours accounting for the majority of diagnosed cancers but having a lack of treatment options, the status quo presents an opportunity to address an area of “particular unmet medical need”.
Prescient said its collaboration with Carina will combine its own expertise in targeted therapies with Carina’s CAR-T specialisation, to develop CAR-T combination therapies for a wide variety of solid cancers.
The duo’s work will be undertaken within Prescient’s current budget and will not require additional capital raisings or supplementary funding of any kind.
However, the exact terms of their agreement remain confidential although both companies have confirmed they plan to share any resulting intellectual property from the collaboration.
“In many ways, CAR-T is the ultimate personalised medicine, with bespoke modification of an individual patient’s T cells to combat cancer,” said Steven Yatomi-Clarke, managing director and chief executive officer of Prescient.
“For some time we have been very interested in the potential to combine our knowledge of targeted therapies with novel cell therapies to improve outcomes in a range of challenging tumour types and see this new collaboration with Carina as a way to deliberately guide the development of complementary CAR-T technologies.”
“Leveraging Carina’s unique technologies for next-generation cell therapy engineering will further enhance the benefit and risk profile of Prescient’s current lead programs and other targeted cancer therapies in the pipeline,” he added.
For Carina, the rationale behind the deal with Prescient is to combine its expertise with another oncology company in the hope of being able to make more progress as part of a combined effort as opposed to working in isolation.
Carina’s managing director Dr Justin Coombs explained that he sees an opportunity for these technologies to be used as a platform for multiple new cell and gene therapies that can be applied across a broad range of rare and prevalent cancers.
“Immunotherapy business development activity is rising and companies like ours are in a global race to develop promising targeted cancer immune therapies. Collaboration is key and working together will speed up the process to identify potential new cancer therapies,” said Mr Coombs.
This morning’s news helped to boost Prescient shares by over 9% to $0.048.