Starpharma’s DEP irinotecan candidate has positive impact on human pancreatic cancer in mice

Starpharma ASX SPL pancreatic cancer DEP irinotecan oncological diseases clinical trials
Starpharma's hopes to be carrying out clinical trials this financial year using its DEP irinotecan candidate on pancreatic cancer.

Starpharma (ASX: SPL) reported its DEP irinotecan candidate has induced “complete tumour regression” when trialled on mouse xenograft models with human pancreatic cancer.

During the study, when Starpharma’s DEP irinotecan was used on human pancreatic tumour models, it resulted in complete tumour regression and 100% survival.

This compares to existing drug Camptosar, which is a standard irinotecan. When the standard irinotecan alone and combined with 5-FU were trialled, the human pancreatic cancer model showed limited tumour inhibition and no regression.

“These results for DEP irinotecan of complete tumour regression and 100% survival are really impressive given the model used was virtually unresponsive to conventional irinotecan,” Starpharma chief executive officer Dr Jackie Fairley said.

The results build on previous trials of DEP irinotecan on colon cancer models, which showed “significantly better” anti-tumour activity and increased survival, compared to current treatments.

Camptostar achieved peak sales of US$1.1 billion a year; however, it comes with a US Federal Drug Administration “black box” warning due to its side effects that include severe diarrhoea and myelosuppression.

Pancreatic cancer

According to Starpharma, pancreatic cancer is the leading cause of death among oncological diseases. The cancer has a one-year survival rate of 20% and a poor five-year survival rate of 7%.

Additionally, metastatic pancreatic cancer remains resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy where the traditional irinotecan and other combination therapies are used as the first line of defence.

“Pancreatic cancer is known to have one of the lowest survival rates and remains an area of significant unmet medical need with substantial opportunity for better patient outcomes,” Dr Fairley said.

Clinical trials

Starpharma plans to use its DEP irinotecan in clinical trials during the current financial year.

The company is completing final development activities and final trial preparation in readiness for beginning the DEP irinotecan phase one and two clinical studies.

Shares in Starpharma were up 4.44% to $1.295 by early afternoon.

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