Sosei Heptares and Cancer Research UK announce first patient dosed in phase 1/2a trial

Betsy Goodfellow | August 10, 2023 | News story | Research and Development Cancer Research UK, Oncology, Sosei Heptares, clinical trial, immunology 

Sosei Heptares and Cancer Research UK have announced that the first patient has been dosed in their phase 1/2a clinical trial assessing Sosei Heptares’ orally available small molecule cancer immunotherapy drug (HTL0039732) for advanced solid tumours.

The drug works by blocking signaling through a specific sort of prostaglandin receptor, the prostaglandin E2 (PGE2)-type prostanoid receptor 4 (EP4), which acts in the tumour microenvironment to cause cancer cells to evade the immune system. The drug, therefore, blocks the effects of PGE2 and increases the ability of the immune system to detect and control cancer cells; this makes the drug a candidate for the treatment of patients with cancers which often do not respond to current immunotherapies, for example microsatellite stable colorectal, gastroesophageal, head and neck and castrate-resistant prostate cancer.

Matt Barnes, president of Heptares Therapeutics and head of UK R&D, commented: “We are very pleased to be collaborating with Cancer Research UK to advance HTL0039732 into clinical development. This novel oral small molecule drug candidate was rationally designed using our SBDD platform and has the potential to become a best-in-class approach to enhance the efficacy of immunotherapies used to treat many cancer patients.”

Dr Bristi Sasu, from the University of Cambridge and chief investigator on the trial, stated: “We are excited to be opening a new UK clinical trial using HTL0039732 to target a protein called EP4, a member of the prostaglandin receptor family that has been implicated in creating the immunosuppressive environment which promotes tumor growth in multiple cancer types. By studying HTL0039732 alone and in combination with immunotherapy, we aim to understand more about how to optimise modulation of the immune system to fight cancers. We hope that this EP4-targeting approach will deliver a promising route to improving treatment options for patients with a broad range of cancers.”

Dr Nigel Blackburn, director of Cancer Research UK’s Centre for Drug Development (CDD), added: “We are delighted to have reached this next significant milestone in our partnership with Sosei Heptares. The fact that immunotherapy works for some patients but not others means we desperately need more trials like this to open up potentially life-saving treatment options to more people.”

Betsy Goodfellow

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