HyperAcute® Pancreas Cancer Immunotherapy
Our lead product candidate, HyperAcute Pancreas, is in a Phase 3 clinical trial being performed under a Special Protocol Assessment (SPA) with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We have also received Fast Track and Orphan Drug designations for this product candidate for the adjuvant treatment of surgically-resected pancreatic cancer. HyperAcute Pancreas consists of equal doses of two separate allogeneic pancreatic cancer cell lines engineered to express α-Gal. Although cells making up naturally occurring pancreatic tumors in patients do not express α-Gal, the tumor cells share other molecules, called tumor-specific or tumor-associated antigens, with the genetically altered pancreatic cancer cells contained in HyperAcute Pancreas. We believe the molecules that are shared by both the patient's tumor cells and HyperAcute Pancreas immunotherapy cells allow the antibodies and immune cells that develop against the HyperAcute Pancreas immunotherapy cells to target and destroy the patient's own tumor cells as well.
The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 44,030 new cases of pancreatic cancer were diagnosed in the United States in 2011. Pancreatic cancer has generally been recognized as an aggressive form of cancer with non-specific initial symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose at an early stage. Due to the difficulty in diagnosis and the aggressive nature of this cancer, the National Cancer Institute estimates a 96% mortality rate is associated with this disease, and the American Cancer Society estimates one-year and five-year overall survival rates of about 24% and 5%, respectively.
Pancreatic cancer can generally be divided into three broad categories: (1) local disease, in which the cancer is confined to the pancreas and can be removed surgicallyresected; (2) locally advanced disease, in which the cancer has spread locally and may or may not be eligible for resection because it has invaded tissues that should not be removed, such as key nerves and arteries; and (3) metastatic disease, in which the tumor has spread beyond the region of the pancreas.
According to eMedicine, a healthcare reference website run by WebMD containing peer-reviewed articles on diseases and medical topics, approximately 20% of pancreatic cancer patients in the United States are eligible for resection at initial diagnosis. These earlier stage, resected patients have significantly better prognoses than patients with later stage disease since they tend to have better nutritional and immune status and significantly lower amounts of micro-metastatic and residual disease. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA, in March 2008 showed that resection followed by chemotherapy or chemoradiotherapy, known as adjuvant therapy, extends median survival to approximately 18 months. We believe the addition of HyperAcute Pancreas to adjuvant standard-of-care has the potential to improve median disease-free survival and overall survival in resected pancreatic cancer patients.
Patients with locally advanced nonresectable disease represent an additional 30% of patients at diagnosis and are generally treated with chemotherapy or chemoradiotherapy. We plan to initiate a clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy of HyperAcute Pancreas in locally advanced, nonresectable pancreatic cancer patients. We believe patients with locally advanced nonresectable disease may also benefit from the addition of HyperAcute Pancreas to standard-of-care.