The first patient has been dosed using a new drug aimed at improving treatment options for melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and re-sensitising patients with checkpoint therapy-resistant tumours
The IMP-MEL clinical trial began in Oxford with its first patient being dosed with the new drug PORT-2. The Oxford-led study is investigating the tolerability and efficacy of PORT-2, a drug that was developed to target invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells and trigger a cancer-specific B and T cell response to tumours.
The study, which is supported by the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), is expected to enrol 100 patients in Oxford and other centres, and will evaluate PORT-2 both as a monotherapy and in combination with approved PD-1 inhibitor drug Keytruda in the treatment of melanoma and NSCLC.
An additional aspect of the PORT-2 drug is that it has the potential to re-sensitise checkpoint-resistant tumours to treatment with PD-1 antibodies. Not all patients’ tumours respond to current immune-oncology agents, with most cancer types totally insensitive to treatment.
Re-sensitising patients is one approach to make existing cancer drugs more effective and appropriate in the treatment of many patients’ cancers.
Professor Mark Middleton, Head of the University of Oxford’s Department of Oncology and the Oxford BRC’s Co-theme Lead for Cancer, said: “Checkpoint inhibitor therapies have enormous opportunity in the treatment of solid tumours, but unfortunately, many cancers develop a resistance to these therapies, leaving many patients without adequate treatment options.
“We’re constantly seeking new therapies that are capable of addressing resistance and enabling a durable response in patients with cancer. Should PORT-2 prove successful, this novel iNKT agonist therapy could potentially re-sensitise patients to checkpoint inhibitor treatment and could activate that durable immune response. It’s a very exciting new avenue for oncology research,” said Prof Middleton, who is leading the trial, which has received support from Portage Biotech.