Advancing Cancer Treatment
The Therapeutics Discovery division at MD Anderson was created to eliminate the bottlenecks that hamper traditional drug development.
Our team of more than 100 dedicated cancer researchers, doctors, drug developers and scientific experts develops small molecule drugs, biologics and cellular therapies, inspired by the needs of MD Anderson cancer patients and guided by the expertise of the center’s clinicians. To create life-saving transformational medicines quickly, safely and effectively, Therapeutics Discovery works with unparalleled proximity to patients and an unmatched wealth of clinical experience.
Therapeutics Discovery doesn’t bring the “bench to bedside” – it starts with the bench at the bedside – with each patient and their cancer.
The platforms of Therapeutics Discovery are supported by MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program®.
We have leveraged our unique approach to discover and advance novel therapies that will improve the lives of our patients. Our strategic collaborations with leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies help us to bring these medicines to our patients in need.Learn more about our therapeutic pipeline
Our Research Platforms
Therapeutics Discovery is a unique group of clinicians, researchers and drug development experts working collaboratively to develop small molecule, biologic, and cell-based therapies.
In the News
Stay up to date on our new partnerships and recent progress.
In a first-time disclosure of IPN60090, a small-molecule inhibitor of the metabolic enzyme glutaminase (GLS1), researchers from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Therapeutics Discovery division and Ipsen Biopharmaceuticals reported the preclinical discovery and early-stage clinical development of this novel drug. IPN60090, now under investigation in a Phase I trial, may hold benefit for certain patients with lung and ovarian cancers.
MD Anderson’s GLS1 program was initiated and advanced by a team of scientists in the Institute for Applied Cancer Science (IACS) and Translational Research to Advance Therapeutics and Innovation in Oncology (TRACTION) platforms, both engines within Therapeutics Discovery. Development of the program continues in collaboration with Ipsen, which licensed the therapeutic in 2018.
Findings and information about the ongoing trial will be presented today at the 2020 American Association for Cancer Research Virtual Annual Meeting I by Jeffrey Kovacs, Ph.D., institute group leader with TRACTION and co-leader of the GLS1 program.
“This effort is a great example of our strategy within Therapeutics Discovery, taking a comprehensive approach to personalized medicine,” said Kovacs. “Our preclinical data suggest that IPN60090 may be effective in underserved groups of patients who need better treatment options, and we look forward to results from our ongoing clinical trials.”
Dysregulation of cellular metabolism is a hallmark of cancer development, and the GLS1 enzyme plays a key role in many metabolic processes. Thus, it makes an attractive target for cancer therapy, explained Kovacs.
IACS drug-discovery scientists identified IPN60090 as a potent and selective inhibitor of GLS1 suitable for clinical trials, and translational researchers in TRACTION demonstrated its activity against subsets of lung and ovarian cancer preclinical models.
Further analysis revealed biomarkers of response, which have been leveraged to identify patients most likely to benefit. In lung cancers, mutations in the KEAP1 and NFE2L2 genes, which regulate response to oxidative stress, sensitize cells to treatment with IPN60090. Similarly, low expression of the metabolic protein asparagine synthetase (ASNS) in ovarian cancers predicts response to IPN60090 in preclinical models.
“Identifying these putative predictive biomarkers of response is critical for our ongoing clinical efforts to ensure that we’re able to offer patients the most relevant therapies,” said Timothy A. Yap, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., F.R.C.P., associate professor of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics and medical director of IACS. “These patient groups in particular, which represent distinct niches within those cancer types, are in need of more effective treatment options.”
For example, patients with lung cancers harboring KEAP1/NRF2 mutations have not benefited from treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors and have poorer outcomes overall, explained Yap, who leads the IPN60090 clinical trial at MD Anderson.
IPN60090 currently is under investigation in a Phase I dose-escalation and dose-expansion study for patients with advanced solid tumors that harbor KEAP1/NFE2L2 mutations or have low ASNS levels. The team has developed novel CLIA-certified assays to identify patients likely to benefit and monitor how effectively the drug is acting. Initial data from the clinical trial indicate that IPN60090 is effectively inhibiting GLS1 activity in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients.
Future trial cohorts plan to investigate IPN60090 in combination with checkpoint inhibitors, chemotherapy and targeted therapies identified by the researchers as having potential synergistic benefits with GLS1 inhibition.
The ongoing research is supported by Ipsen through a global licensing and development agreement. The research is managed according to MD Anderson’s Institutional Conflict of Interest Management and Monitoring Plan. Kovacs is a co-inventor on material and method-of-use patent applications related to IPN60090. The Therapeutics Discovery division is supported in part by MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program.
Cellular therapies have emerged as an effective new therapy for patients with certain types of cancer, and MD Anderson has played an important role in advancing these novel treatments to the clinic. With recent agreements, MD Anderson has expanded its manufacturing and research capacity for cell therapies to bring new treatment options to more patients.
This month, MD Anderson finalized an asset purchase agreement with Bellicum Pharmaceuticals, Inc., to acquire its 60,000 sq. ft. cellular therapy manufacturing facility in the Texas Medical Center for $15 million. MD Anderson will operate this facility for its own internal programs and strategic partners.
Agreement offers new promise for cellular therapies
This manufacturing facility provides industrial capacity and expertise to accelerate MD Anderson’s cellular therapy efforts toward meaningful clinical advances, explains Jason Bock, Ph.D., vice president of Therapeutics Discovery and head of Biologics Product Development.
“We are excited to leverage this state-of-the-art development and
GMP manufacturing facility to dramatically accelerate
MD Anderson’s cell therapy programs,” says Bock.
The Therapeutics Discovery division is a unique drug discovery and development engine within MD Anderson, created to advance the next generation of impactful cancer medicines. This team of more than 100 researchers, clinicians and drug-development experts work with unmatched clinical insight to develop new therapies, including small molecules, biologics and cellular therapies, to answer unmet medical needs in oncology.
January is National Biotechnology Month, which recognizes the potential of biotechnology innovations to improve the lives of Americans. MD Anderson’s commitment to research, innovation and drug discovery is aligned with this goal and our mission to end cancer.
The Therapeutics Discovery team also works closely with
MD Anderson’s adoptive cell therapy (ACT) platform, which is working to create a variety of novel cellular therapy approaches for treating cancer. The ACT and Therapeutics Discovery platforms are part of the institution’s Moon Shots Program®, a collaborative effort to accelerate the development of scientific discoveries into clinical advances that save patients’ lives.
Bringing cutting-edge natural killer cell and T cell therapies to the clinic
With the support of the Moon Shots Program and ACT platform, Katy Rezvani, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, developed MD Anderson’s chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-modified natural killer (NK) cell therapy platform.
In November 2019, MD Anderson announced an exclusive license agreement and research agreement with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company to develop four CAR NK therapies. With continued support from the ACT platform and Therapeutics Discovery teams, MD Anderson will work with Takeda to bring the lead CAR NK therapy into pivotal clinical trials in 2021.
The ACT platform also is working to advance endogenous T-cell therapy, pioneered by platform co-leader Cassian Yee, M.D., professor of Melanoma Medical Oncology. This work has initiated several early-phase clinical trials as well as the launch of Immatics US, Inc., which is focused on developing a variety of T-cell therapies.
Additionally, Sattva Neelapu, M.D., and Michael Wang, M.D., both professors of Lymphoma & Myeloma, lead pivotal trials investigating the use of CD19 CAR T cells for treating large B cell lymphoma and mantle cell lymphoma, respectively, demonstrating the clinical expertise in novel cell therapies within MD Anderson.
“By synergizing the cell therapy research platforms and depth of clinical development experience with our newly acquired industrial capabilities, MD Anderson has created an unrivaled end-to-end engine to bring the most cutting-edge therapeutics from the lab to patients who need them,” says Bock.
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