Partners will build on clinical studies of ADI-PEG 20 in melanoma and small-cell lung cancer.

Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR) and Polaris Group formed a collaboration to expand development of Polaris’ pegylated arginine deiminase (ADI-PEG 20), a cancer drug candidate that kills tumor cells by depleting the amino acid arginine. The firms will also try to identify other amino acid-degrading enzymes with antitumor activity.

The collaboration builds on an existing relationship under which LICR and Polaris have studied ADI-PEG 20 in melanoma. The partners are now conducting a Phase II trial in small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) that was initiated in December 2010.  LICR is the sponsor of the SCLC clinical trial and is sharing expenses and resources with Polaris to conduct the trial.

ADI-PEG 20 works by systemically depleting the external supply of arginine, which causes  arginine-dependent cancer cells to die while leaving the normal cells unharmed. Phase II trials have yielded positive results in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma or metastatic melanoma, and Phase II trials for small cell lung cancer and mesothelioma are currently ongoing.

“The current trial of ADI in patients with SCLC is particularly exciting because of the strong preclinical antitumor activity in SCLC models, the high frequency of arginine-dependence in SCLC, and the initial striking sensitivity of SCLC to cytotoxic agents,” notes Lloyd J. Old, M.D, director of LICR’s New York branch and William E. Snee chair in immunology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

“Because arginine dependence appears to be a characteristic of many tumor types, LICR and Polaris have decided to establish a formal partnership to explore the full potential of ADI in human cancer therapy and to use our joint strengths to identify other amino acid-degrading enzymes with antitumor activity,” Dr. Old adds.

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