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 small-molecule, biologic and cell-based therapies to answer unmet needs that will improve the lives of our patients.Learn more about our therapeutics pipeline
In the News
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The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Taiho Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., today announced a three-year strategic collaboration to accelerate the development of treatments for significant unmet medical needs in oncology, including patients with brain metastases and those with cancers refractory to available therapies.
This collaboration will bring Taiho’s unique portfolio of preclinical and clinical brain-penetrant therapies together with both the translational research capabilities of MD Anderson’s Translational Research to Advance Therapeutics and Innovation in Oncology (TRACTION) platform as well as insights and clinical development infrastructure from MD Anderson’s Brain Metastasis Clinic.
“Our collaboration with MD Anderson exemplifies a direct line of sight from target development to therapies for patients with limited treatment options,” said Teruhiro Utsugi, Ph.D., managing director at Taiho. “Investigating our novel portfolio of drug candidates in this innovative research structure will enable us to more rapidly identify and develop effective treatment strategies.”
According to the American Brain Tumor Association, metastases to the brain and spine are diagnosed in more than 200,000 patients annually in the US. However, the development of effective treatment approaches for these patients has been hampered because they often are excluded from clinical trials. However, recent studies in melanoma, lung and breast cancers have demonstrated that patients with brain metastases can gain significant clinical benefit from immunotherapy and targeted therapies, leading to improvements in quality of life and survival.
MD Anderson’s Brain Metastasis Clinic is a patient-focused, multidisciplinary center designed to reduce the time from a diagnosis to treatment for patients with brain metastases while improving access to clinical trials. The TRACTION platform, an industry-scale translational research unit within MD Anderson’s Therapeutics Discovery division, has established a robust integrated research framework with the Brain Metastasis Clinic to identify innovative treatment approaches and execute novel clinical trials.
“MD Anderson’s commitment to delivering novel therapeutic strategies to patients with unmet clinical needs is exemplified in the development of the Brain Metastasis Clinic and its close collaboration with the TRACTION platform,” said Timothy Heffernan, Ph.D., executive director of TRACTION at MD Anderson. “Our alliance with Taiho combines outstanding drug discovery with expertise in translational research and clinical development to advance new treatment options for patients diagnosed with brain metastases.”
New preclinical research from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and BridgeBio Pharma, Inc. affiliate Navire Pharma, Inc., finds that the novel SHP2 inhibitor IACS-13909 is able to overcome multiple therapeutic-resistance mechanisms in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), suggesting a possible new approach to treating cancers that have developed resistance to the targeted EGFR inhibitor osimertinib.
The data is published today in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. IACS-13909 is a potent and selective allosteric SHP2 (Src homology 2 domain-containing phosphatase) inhibitor developed through collaboration between Navire and MD Anderson’s Therapeutics Discovery division. Based on these data, Navire plans to launch a clinical study of SHP2 inhibitors by the end of 2020 at multiple US sites, including MD Anderson.
IACS-13909 was initially discovered as an SHP2 inhibitor by a team of scientists in MD Anderson’s Institute for Applied Cancer Science (IACS) and Translational Research to Advance Therapeutics and Innovation in Oncology (TRACTION) platforms, both engines within the Therapeutics Discovery division.
“Tyrosine kinase inhibitors, like osimertinib, appear initially effective in suppressing tumor growth, but multiple mechanisms of resistance can develop while a patient is still receiving treatment,” said Nancy Kohl, Ph.D., a senior author of the study and member of Navire’s scientific advisory board. “This study shows that IACS-13909’s ability to inhibit a protein downstream of multiple signaling pathways is a promising approach in overcoming these common tumor-resistance mechanisms.”
Osimertinib is a targeted EGFR inhibitor used as a front-line option for treating patients with NSCLC harboring specific EGFR mutations. However, NSLCs frequently develop osimertinib resistance over time, either through additional mutations in EGFR that block activity of the drug, or by activating compensatory signaling pathways.
SHP2 is a protein that acts downstream in these pathways, and it is required for full activation of the MAPK signaling pathways, which is known to fuel tumor growth, proliferation and survival.
“Our findings show that IACS-13909 is capable of suppressing tumor cell proliferation in vitro and causing tumor regression in vivo for lung cancers harboring a variety of activated kinases as the oncogenic driver,” said lead author Yuting Sun, Ph.D., co-project lead and senior research scientist with TRACTION at MD Anderson. “These data suggest that targeting SHP2 could provide a viable strategy for overcoming osimertinib resistance occurring through a variety of mechanisms.”
These results were consistent when IACS-13909 was used as a single agent and in combination with osimertinib in vivo. The combination treatment in vitro led to prolonged, more durable responses in tumors that were sensitive to osimertinib and stimulated tumor regression in osimertinib-resistant models.
“Through our collaboration with the Therapeutics Discovery team at MD Anderson, we continue to uncover SHP2’s critical role in activating multiple different pathways related to cancer’s onset and growth,” said Eli Wallace, chief scientific officer of oncology at BridgeBio, Navire’s parent company. “This study further supports the very reason that Navire was founded – to develop novel SHP2 insights into targeted medicines for patients in need. We look forward to advancing our lead SHP2 inhibitor into the clinic later this year.”
The ongoing research is supported by Navire through a global licensing and development agreement, and the Therapeutics Discovery division is supported in part by MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program®. MD Anderson has an institutional financial conflict of interest with Navire, and the research is managed according to MD Anderson’s Institutional Conflict of Interest Management and Monitoring Plan. A complete list of study co-authors and their disclosures can be found with the full paper here.
Our Unique Model
We are a drug development engine built within MD Anderson, taking an approach unlike anywhere else. Our experienced teams work collaboratively across industry-scale research platforms to advance new therapies, and we collaborate with leading biopharmaceutical companies to bring new medicines to patients in need.Learn more about our approach