Waltham-based, ImmunoGen, Seeks FDA Approval to Begin Human Trials of New Cancer Therapy

Posted by erik devaney

The current standard of care when it comes to treating non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — the most prevalent type of hematological or “blood-based” cancer — is a drug called rituximab. While rituximab does not typically cause unfavorable side effects in patients, the problem with the drug is that doctors frequently seek to increase its effectiveness by combining it with chemotherapy. This practice, unfortunately, also reduces a patient’s ability to tolerate rituximab.

Now, one Waltham-based biotechnology company is looking to revolutionize the standard of care for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by eliminating the need for chemotherapy. ImmunoGen recently filed an Investigational New Drug (IND) application with the FDA to explore the potential benefits of its new cancer therapy, IMGN529. In addition to studying its effects on non-Hodgkins lymphoma, ImmunoGen would like to explore IMGN529’s impact on chronic lymphocytic leukemia, which is another variety of blood-based cancer.

“IMGN529 is a TAP [Targeted Antibody Payload] compound,” ImmunoGen CEO, Daniel Junius, told New England Post. Unlike chemotherapy agents, “TAP compounds utilize antibodies as targeting vehicles to deliver a potent, ImmunoGen cancer-killing agent directly to cancer cells to minimize damage to healthy tissue.” This means that during treatment, patients would be less likely to suffer from side effects like nausea, vomiting, hair loss and immune system disruption.

More specifically, IMGN529 attacks cancers cells in two distinct ways: “through the anti-cancer activity of its antibody,” said Junius, “as well as by utilizing our TAP technology to deliver one of our cancer cell-killing agents, DM1.”

Junius concedes that other biotechnology companies currently have non-Hodgkins lymphoma therapies in the works. These therapies are known as antibody-drug conjugates (ADC) compounds. Unlike ImmunoGen’s IMGN529, however, such ADC compounds do not have significant anti-cancer properties of their own. As Junius told New England Post, “IMGN529 combines the benefit of an active antibody with the benefit of an ADC.”

IMGN529 is just one of many cancer therapies that ImmunoGen is developing using its TAP technology. In addition to IMGN529, the company has two compounds in clinical testing (IMGN901 and IMGN388) and expects an IND for a fourth (IMGN853) in early 2012.

“ImmunoGen expects to continue to develop proprietary compounds and to continue using our TAP technology in the compounds that we develop going forward,” said Junius. “We also selectively out-license our technology to partners. Between our programs and those of our partners, we expect 11 TAP compounds to be in clinical testing by mid-2012.”

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Short URL: http://www.newenglandpost.com/?p=4600

Posted by erik devaney on Sep 27 2011. Filed under Featured - For home page featured article, Health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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