Australian clinical-stage drug development company Noxopharm (ASX: NOX) is pleased to announce it has joined with Bristol Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) in an Australian pilot study investigating the ability of Noxopharm’s immunotherapy drug candidate, Veyonda®, to overcome resistance to Bristol Myers Squibb’s nivolumab (Opdivo®) in the treatment of cancer.
Veyonda is a first-in-class sphingosine-1-phosphate inhibitor with high selectivity for cancer cells. This mechanism of action yields a range of immunotherapeutic effects including restoration of immune function in tumors, commonly referred to as converting tumors from cold to hot.
The study, called IONIC-1, will investigate the ability of Veyonda to sensitize tumors to the PD-1 inhibiting actions of Opdivo. Approximately 30 cancer patients (e.g., melanoma, lung, and bladder cancers) will be involved, including those who have progressed on Opdivo, as well as Opdivo-naive patients (e.g., breast, ovarian, prostate cancers and sarcoma). It is anticipated that the first patients will be recruited early in the new year.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors such as Opdivo have revolutionized the treatment of some cancers with what can be dramatic, lifesaving benefits. However, most cancer types have proven to be resistant. Research points to a key limiting factor — the lack of competent immune function within cancer — with individual tumors actively expelling immune cells. Restoring that immune function is a major current goal within the pharmaceutical industry.
“I’m excited to be working with Noxopharm and Bristol Myers Squibb on this study,” said principal investigator professor Paul De Souza, dean of medicine at the University of Wollongong. “Checkpoint inhibitors have made a tremendous difference to some patients with advanced cancer. If we can increase the number of patients that respond through the addition of Veyonda to their treatment regimen, we will make a significant impact — not only to those individuals, but also on the oncology landscape.”
The checkpoint inhibitor market is a multi-billion-dollar market with rapid year-on-year growth, currently dominated by two major global pharmaceutical companies, one of which is Bristol Myers Squibb.
Noxopharm is a clinical-stage Australian oncology drug development company with offices in Sydney and New York. The company has a primary focus on the development of Veyonda® and is the major shareholder in the non-oncology drug development company, Nyrada Inc.