Aurigene Discovery Technologies has edged one step closer to a development that can potentially alter the mentality from intravenous injection to that of a capsule for the treatment of advanced forms of cancers such as melanoma and lung cancer. The two partners, a Bengaluru-based independent subsidiary of Dr. Reddy’s Laboraties, followed by its United States-based partner, Curis Inc., recently announced the dosing of the first patient as a phase one clinical trial for the drug coded CA-170. CA-170 has been described as a breakthrough in the world in a fiercely competed set of experimental drugs referred to as checkpoint inhibitors. Checkpoint inhibitors, in layman’s terms, work to block proteins in cancer cells or immune cells in the human body to trigger the immune system to fight cancer cells. These inhibitors are the latest frontier in cancer research, funded largely by drug makers as they search for effective leads.
For the two partners, the journey is likely to be long and full of risks of failure in the clinical development cycle, taking anywhere from four to six years to reach commercialisation. Currently, the two marketed intravenous drugs Keytruda and Opdivo clocked about $1.5 billion in sales in 2015 alone.
The industry expects the expanding field of immune-oncology drugs, including checkpoint inhibitors, to top $35 billion in revenue in the next eight years. “The success of this (CA-170) program will pave the way for a number of other oral immune checkpoint inhibitors in the pipeline at Aurigene, including a dual inhibitor also licensed to the same partner – Curis Inc. Aurigene’s platform technology will see multiple opportunities develop over the next couple of years,” said Aurigene Discovery Technologies CEO CSN Murthy. With the ability to simultaneously block two important immune checkpoints, this can potentially address certain patients who show resistance to existing therapies, company researchers said.