Posts Tagged ‘FDA’

FDA Guidance On Source Animal, Product, Preclinical and Clinical Issues Concerning the Use of Xenotranspantation Products in Humans – Implications for 3D BioPrinting of Regenerative Tissue

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.


The FDA has submitted Final Guidance on use xeno-transplanted animal tissue, products, and cells into human and their use in medical procedures. Although the draft guidance was to expand on previous guidelines to prevent the introduction, transmission, and spread of communicable diseases, this updated draft may have implications for use of such tissue in the emerging medical 3D printing field.

This document is to provide guidance on the production, testing and evaluation of products intended for use in xenotransplantation. The guidance includes scientific questions that should be addressed by sponsors during protocol development and during the preparation of submissions to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), e.g., Investigational New Drug Application (IND) and Biologics License Application (BLA). This guidance document finalizes the draft guidance of the same title dated February 2001.

For the purpose of this document, xenotransplantation refers to any procedure that involves the transplantation, implantation, or infusion into a human recipient of either (a) live cells, tissues, or organs from a nonhuman animal source, or (b) human body fluids, cells, tissues or organs that have had ex vivo contact with live nonhuman animal cells, tissues or organs. For the purpose of this document, xenotransplantation products include live cells, tissues or organs used in xenotransplantation. (See Definitions in section I.C.)

This document presents issues that should be considered in addressing the safety of viable materials obtained from animal sources and intended for clinical use in humans. The potential threat to both human and animal welfare from zoonotic or other infectious agents warrants careful characterization of animal sources of cells, tissues, and organs. This document addresses issues such as the characterization of source animals, source animal husbandry practices, characterization of xenotransplantation products, considerations for the xenotransplantation product manufacturing facility, appropriate preclinical models for xenotransplantation protocols, and monitoring of recipients of xenotransplantation products. This document recommends specific practices intended to prevent the introduction and spread of infectious agents of animal origin into the human population. FDA expects that new methods proposed by sponsors to address specific issues will be scientifically rigorous and that sufficient data will be presented to justify their use.

Examples of procedures involving xenotransplantation products include:

  • transplantation of xenogeneic hearts, kidneys, or pancreatic tissue to treat organ failure,
  • implantation of neural cells to ameliorate neurological degenerative diseases,
  • administration of human cells previously cultured ex vivo with live nonhuman animal antigen-presenting or feeder cells, and
  • extracorporeal perfusion of a patient’s blood or blood component perfused through an intact animal organ or isolated cells contained in a device to treat liver failure.

The guidance addresses issues such as:

  1. Clinical Protocol Review
  2. Xenotransplantation Site
  3. Criteria for Patient Selection
  4. Risk/Benefit Assessment
  5. Screening for Infectious Agents
  6. Patient Follow-up
  7. Archiving of Patient Plasma and Tissue Specimens
  8. Health Records and Data Management
  9. Informed Consent
  10. Responsibility of the Sponsor in Informing the Patient of New Scientific Information

A full copy of the PDF can be found below for reference:


An example of the need for this guidance in conjunction with 3D printing technology can be understood from the below article (source

Pig in us: Xenotransplantation and new age of chimeric organs

David Warmflash | September 3, 2015 | Genetic Literacy Project

Imagine stripping out the failing components of an old car — the engine, transmission, exhaust system and all of those parts — leaving just the old body and other structural elements. Replace those old mechanical parts with a brand new electric, hydrogen powered, biofuel, nuclear or whatever kind of engine you want and now you have a brand new car. It has an old frame, but that’s okay. The frame wasn’t causing the problem, and it can live on for years, undamaged.

When challenged to design internal organs, tissue engineers are taking a similar approach, particularly with the most complex organs, like the heart, liver and kidneys. These organs have three dimensional structures that are elaborate, not just at the gross anatomic level, but in microscopic anatomy too. Some day, their complex connective tissue scaffolding, the stroma, might be synthesized from the needed collagen proteins with advanced 3-D printing. But biomedical engineering is not there yet, so right now the best candidate for organ scaffolding comes from one of humanity’s favorite farm animals: the pig.

Chimera alarmists connecting with anti-biotechnology movements might cringe at the thought of building new human organs starting with pig tissue, but if you’re using only the organ scaffolding and building a working organ from there, pig organs may actually be more desirable than those donated by humans.

How big is the anti-chimerite movement?

Unlike anti-GMO and anti-vaccination activists, there really aren’t too many anti-chemerites around. Nevertheless, there is a presence on the web of people who express concern about mixing of humans and non-human animals. Presently, much of their concern is focussed on the growing of human organs inside non-human animals, pigs included. One anti-chemerite has written that it could be a problem for the following reason:

Once a human organ is grown inside a pig, that pig is no longer fully a pig. And without a doubt, that organ will no longer be a fully human organ after it is grown inside the pig. Those receiving those organs will be allowing human-animal hybrid organs to be implanted into them. Most people would be absolutely shocked to learn some of the things that are currently being done in the name of science.

The blog goes on to express alarm about the use of human genes in rice and from there morphs into an off the shelf garden variety anti-GMO tirade, though with an an anti-chemeric current running through it. The concern about making pigs a little bit human and humans a little bit pig becomes a concern about making rice a little bit human. But the concern about fusing tissues and genes of humans and other species does not fit with the trend in modern medicine.

Utilization of pig tissue enters a new age 


A porcine human ear for xenotransplantation. source: The Scientist

For decades, pig, bovine and other non-human tissues have been used in medicine. People are walking around with pig and cow heart valves. Diabetics used to get a lot of insulin from pigs and cows, although today, thanks to genetic engineering, they’re getting human insulin produced by microorganisms modified genetically to make human insulin, which is safer and more effective.

When it comes to building new organs from old ones, however, pig organs could actually be superior for a couple of reasons. For one thing, there’s no availability problem with pigs. Their hearts and other organs also have all of the crucial components of the extracellular matrix that makes up an organ’s scaffolding. But unlike human organs, the pig organs don’t tend to carry or transfer human diseases. That is a major advantage that makes them ideal starting material. Plus there is another advantage: typically, the hearts of human cadavers are damaged, either because heart disease is what killed the human owner or because resuscitation efforts aimed at restarting the heart of a dying person using electrical jolts and powerful drugs.

Rebuilding an old organ into a new one

How then does the process work? Whether starting with a donated human or pig organ, there are several possible methods. But what they all have in common is that only the scaffolding of the original organ is retained. Just like the engine and transmission of the old car, the working tissue is removed, usually using detergents. One promising technique that has been applied to engineer new hearts is being tested by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. Detergents pumped into the aorta attached to a donated heart (donated by a human cadaver, or pig or cow). The pressure keeps the aortic valve closed, so the detergents to into the coronary arteries and through the myocardial (heart muscle) and endocardial (lining over the muscle inside the heart chambers) tissue, which thus gets dissolved over the course of days. What’s left is just the stroma tissue, forming a scaffold. But that scaffold has signaling factors that enable embryonic stem cells, or specially programed adult pleuripotent cells to become all of the needed cells for a new heart.

Eventually, 3-D printing technology may reach the point when no donated scaffolding is needed, but that’s not the case quite yet, plus with a pig scaffolding all of the needed signaling factors are there and they work just as well as those in a human heart scaffold. All of this can lead to a scenario, possibly very soon, in which organs are made using off-the-self scaffolding from pig organs, ready to produce a custom-made heart using stem or other cells donated by new organ’s recipient.

David Warmflash is an astrobiologist, physician, and science writer. Follow @CosmicEvolution to read what he is saying on Twitter.

And a Great Article in The Scientist by Dr. Ed Yong Entitled

Replacement Parts

To cope with a growing shortage of hearts, livers, and lungs suitable for transplant, some scientists are genetically engineering pigs, while others are growing organs in the lab.

By Ed Yong | August 1, 2012


.. where Joseph Vacanti and David Cooper figured that using

“engineered pigs without the a-1,3-galactosyltransferase gene that produces the a-gal residues. In addition, the pigs carry human cell-membrane proteins such as CD55 and CD46 that prevent the host’s complement system from assembling and attacking the foreign cells”

thereby limiting rejection of the xenotransplated tissue.

In addition to issues related to animal virus transmission the issue of optimal scaffolds for organs as well as the advantages which 3D Printing would have in mass production of organs is discussed:

To Vacanti, artificial scaffolds are the future of organ engineering, and the only way in which organs for transplantation could be mass-produced. “You should be able to make them on demand, with low-cost materials and manufacturing technologies,” he says. That is relatively simple for organs like tracheas or bladders, which are just hollow tubes or sacs. Even though it is far more difficult for the lung or liver, which have complicated structures, Vacanti thinks it will be possible to simulate their architecture with computer models, and fabricate them with modern printing technology. (See “3-D Printing,” The Scientist, July 2012.) “They obey very ordered rules, so you can reduce it down to a series of algorithms, which can help you design them,” he says. But Taylor says that even if the architecture is correct, the scaffold would still need to contain the right surface molecules to guide the growth of any added cells. “It seems a bit of an overkill when nature has already done the work for us,” she says.


Read Full Post »

New FDA Draft Guidance On Homologous Use of Human Cells, Tissues, and Cellular and Tissue-Based Products – Implications for 3D BioPrinting of Regenerative Tissue

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

The FDA recently came out with a Draft Guidance on use of human cells, tissues and cellular and tissue-based products (HCT/P) {defined in 21 CFR 1271.3(d)} and their use in medical procedures. Although the draft guidance was to expand on previous guidelines to prevent the introduction, transmission, and spread of communicable diseases, this updated draft may have implications for use of such tissue in the emerging medical 3D printing field.

A full copy of the PDF can be found here for reference but the following is a summary of points of the guidance.FO508ver – 2015-373 HomologousUseGuidanceFinal102715

In 21 CFR 1271.10, the regulations identify the criteria for regulation solely under section 361 of the PHS Act and 21 CFR Part 1271. An HCT/P is regulated solely under section 361 of the PHS Act and 21 CFR Part 1271 if it meets all of the following criteria (21 CFR 1271.10(a)):

  • The HCT/P is minimally manipulated;
  • The HCT/P is intended for homologous use only, as reflected by the labeling, advertising, or other indications of the manufacturer’s objective intent;
  • The manufacture of the HCT/P does not involve the combination of the cells or tissues with another article, except for water, crystalloids, or a sterilizing, preserving, or storage agent, provided that the addition of water, crystalloids, or the sterilizing, preserving, or storage agent does not raise new clinical safety concerns with respect to the HCT/P; and
  • Either:
  1. The HCT/P does not have a systemic effect and is not dependent upon the metabolic activity of living cells for its primary function; or
  2. The HCT/P has a systemic effect or is dependent upon the metabolic activity of living cells for its primary function, and:
  3. Is for autologous use;
  4. Is for allogeneic use in a first-degree or second-degree blood relative; or
  5. Is for reproductive use.

If an HCT/P does not meet all of the criteria in 21 CFR 1271.10(a), and the establishment that manufactures the HCT/P does not qualify for any of the exceptions in 21 CFR 1271.15, the HCT/P will be regulated as a drug, device, and/or biological product under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), and/or section 351 of the PHS Act, and applicable regulations, including 21 CFR Part 1271, and pre-market review will be required.

1 Examples of HCT/Ps include, but are not limited to, bone, ligament, skin, dura mater, heart valve, cornea, hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells derived from peripheral and cord blood, manipulated autologous chondrocytes, epithelial cells on a synthetic matrix, and semen or other reproductive tissue. The following articles are not considered HCT/Ps: (1) Vascularized human organs for transplantation; (2) Whole blood or blood components or blood derivative products subject to listing under 21 CFR Parts 607 and 207, respectively; (3) Secreted or extracted human products, such as milk, collagen, and cell factors, except that semen is considered an HCT/P; (4) Minimally manipulated bone marrow for homologous use and not combined with another article (except for water, crystalloids, or a sterilizing, preserving, or storage agent, if the addition of the agent does not raise new clinical safety concerns with respect to the bone marrow); (5) Ancillary products used in the manufacture of HCT/P; (6) Cells, tissues, and organs derived from animals other than humans; (7) In vitro diagnostic products as defined in 21 CFR 809.3(a); and (8) Blood vessels recovered with an organ, as defined in 42 CFR 121.2 that are intended for use in organ transplantation and labeled “For use in organ transplantation only.” (21 CFR 1271.3(d))

Contains Nonbinding Recommendations
Draft – Not for Implementation

Section 1271.10(a)(2) (21 CFR 1271.10(a)(2)) provides that one of the criteria for an HCT/P to be regulated solely under section 361 of the PHS Act is that the “HCT/P is intended for homologous use only, as reflected by the labeling, advertising, or other indications of the manufacturer’s objective intent.” As defined in 21 CFR 1271.3(c), homologous use means the repair, reconstruction, replacement, or supplementation of a recipient’s cells or tissues with an HCT/P that performs the same basic function or functions in the recipient as in the donor. This criterion reflects the Agency’s conclusion that there would be increased safety and effectiveness concerns for HCT/Ps that are intended for a non-homologous use, because there is less basis on which to predict the product’s behavior, whereas HCT/Ps for homologous use can reasonably be expected to function appropriately (assuming all of the other criteria are also met).2 In applying the homologous use criterion, FDA will determine what the intended use of the HCT/P is, as reflected by the the labeling, advertising, and other indications of a manufacturer’s objective intent, and will then apply the homologous use definition.

FDA has received many inquiries from manufacturers about whether their HCT/Ps meet the homologous use criterion in 21 CFR 1271.10(a)(2). Additionally, transplant and healthcare providers often need to know this information about the HCT/Ps that they are considering for use in their patients. This guidance provides examples of different types of HCT/Ps and how the regulation in 21 CFR 1271.10(a)(2) applies to them, and provides general principles that can be applied to HCT/Ps that may be developed in the future. In some of the examples, the HCT/Ps may fail to meet more than one of the four criteria in 21 CFR 1271.10(a).


  1. What is the definition of homologous use?

Homologous use means the repair, reconstruction, replacement, or supplementation of a recipient’s cells or tissues with an HCT/P that performs the same basic function or functions in the recipient as in the donor (21 CFR 1271.3(c)), including when such cells or tissues are for autologous use. We generally consider an HCT/P to be for homologous use when it is used to repair, reconstruct, replace, or supplement:

  • Recipient cells or tissues that are identical (e.g., skin for skin) to the donor cells or tissues, and perform one or more of the same basic functions in the recipient as the cells or tissues performed in the donor; or,
  • Recipient cells that may not be identical to the donor’s cells, or recipient tissues that may not be identical to the donor’s tissues, but that perform one or more of the same basic functions in the recipient as the cells or tissues performed in the donor.3

2 Proposed Approach to Regulation of Cellular and Tissue-Based Products, FDA Docket. No. 97N-0068 (February. 28, 1997) page 19. ucm062601.pdf.

3“Establishment Registration and Listing for Manufacturers of Human Cellular and Tissue-Based Products” 63 FR 26744 at 26749 (May 14, 1998).

Contains Nonbinding Recommendations
Draft – Not for Implementation

1-1. A heart valve is transplanted to replace a dysfunctional heart valve. This is homologous use because the donor heart valve performs the same basic function in the donor as in the recipient of ensuring unidirectional blood flow within the heart.

1-2. Pericardium is intended to be used as a wound covering for dura mater defects. This is homologous use because the pericardium is intended to repair or reconstruct the dura mater and serve as a covering in the recipient, which is one of the basic functions it performs in the donor.

Generally, if an HCT/P is intended for use as an unproven treatment for a myriad of

diseases or conditions, the HCT/P is likely not intended for homologous use only.4

  1. What does FDA mean by repair, reconstruction, replacement, or supplementation of a recipient’s cells or tissues?

Repair generally means the physical or mechanical restoration of tissues, including by covering or protecting. For example, FDA generally would consider skin removed from a donor and then transplanted to a recipient in order to cover a burn wound to be a homologous use. Reconstruction generally means surgical reassembling or re-forming. For example, reconstruction generally would include the reestablishment of the physical integrity of a damaged aorta.5 Replacement generally means substitution of a missing tissue or cell, for example, the replacement of a damaged or diseased cornea with a healthy cornea or the replacement of donor hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells in a recipient with a disorder affecting the hematopoietic system that is inherited, acquired, or the result of myeloablative treatment. Supplementation generally means to add to, or complete. For example, FDA generally would consider homologous uses to be the implantation of dermal matrix into the facial wrinkles to supplement a recipient’s tissues and the use of bone chips to supplement bony defects. Repair, reconstruction, replacement, and supplementation are not mutually exclusive functions and an HCT/P could perform more than one of these functions for a given intended use.

  1. What does FDA mean by “the same basic function or functions” in the definition of homologous use?

For the purpose of applying the regulatory framework, the same basic function or functions of HCT/Ps are considered to be those basic functions the HCT/P performs in the body of the donor, which, when transplanted, implanted, infused, or transferred, the HCT/P would be expected to perform in the recipient. It is not necessary for the HCT/P in the recipient to perform all of the basic functions it performed in the donor, in order to

4 “Human Cells, Tissues, and Cellular and Tissue-Based Products; Establishment Registration and Listing” 66 FR 5447 at 5458 (January 19, 2001).

5 “Current Good Tissue Practice for Human Cell, Tissue, and Cellular and Tissue-Based Product Establishments; Inspection and Enforcement” 69 FR 68612 at 68643 (November 24, 2004) states, “HCT/Ps with claims for “reconstruction or repair” can be regulated solely under section 361 of the PHS Act, provided the HCT/P meets all the criteria in § 1271.10, including minimal manipulation and homologous use.”

Contains Nonbinding Recommendations
Draft – Not for Implementation

meet the definition of homologous use. However, to meet the definition of homologous use, any of the basic functions that the HCT/P is expected to perform in the recipient must be a basic function that the HCT/P performed in the donor.

A homologous use for a structural tissue would generally be to perform a structural function in the recipient, for example, to physically support or serve as a barrier or conduit, or connect, cover, or cushion.

A homologous use for a cellular or nonstructural tissue would generally be a metabolic or biochemical function in the recipient, such as, hematopoietic, immune, and endocrine functions.

3-1. The basic functions of hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HPCs) include to form and to replenish the hematopoietic system. Sources of HPCs include cord blood, peripheral blood, and bone marrow.6

  1. HPCs derived from peripheral blood are intended for transplantation into an individual with a disorder affecting the hematopoietic system that is inherited, acquired, or the result of myeloablative treatment. This is homologous use because the peripheral blood product performs the same basic function of reconstituting the hematopoietic system in the recipient.
  2. HPCs derived from bone marrow are infused into an artery with a balloon catheter for the purpose of limiting ventricular remodeling following acute myocardial infarction. This is not homologous use because limiting ventricular remodeling is not a basic function of bone marrow.
  3. A manufacturer provides HPCs derived from cord blood with a package insert stating that cord blood may be infused intravenously to differentiate into neuronal cells for treatment of cerebral palsy. This is not homologous use because there is insufficient evidence to support that such differentiation is a basic function of these cells in the donor.

3-2. The basic functions of the cornea include protecting the eye by forming its outermost layer and serving as the refracting medium of the eye. A corneal graft is transplanted to restore sight in a patient with corneal blindness. This is homologous use because a corneal graft performs the same basic functions in the donor as in the recipient.

3-3. The basic functions of a vein or artery include serving as a conduit for blood flow throughout the body. A cryopreserved vein or artery is used for arteriovenous access during hemodialysis. This is homologous use because the vein or artery is supplementing the vessel as a conduit for blood flow.

3-4. The basic functions of amniotic membrane include covering, protecting, serving as a selective barrier for the movement of nutrients between the external and in utero

6 Bone marrow meets the definition of an HCT/P only if is it more than minimally manipulated; intended by the manufacturer for a non-homologous use, or combined with certain drugs or devices.

Contains Nonbinding Recommendations
Draft – Not for Implementation

environment, and to retain fluid in utero. Amniotic membrane is used for bone tissue replacement to support bone regeneration following surgery to repair or replace bone defects. This is not a homologous use because bone regeneration is not a basic function of amniotic membrane.

3-5. The basic functions of pericardium include covering, protecting against infection, fixing the heart to the mediastinum, and providing lubrication to allow normal heart movement within chest. Autologous pericardium is used to replace a dysfunctional heart valve in the same patient. This is not homologous use because facilitating unidirectional blood flow is not a basic function of pericardium.

  1. Does my HCT/P have to be used in the same anatomic location to perform the same basic function or functions?

An HCT/P may perform the same basic function or functions even when it is not used in the same anatomic location where it existed in the donor.7 A transplanted HCT/P could replace missing tissue, or repair, reconstruct, or supplement tissue that is missing or damaged, either when placed in the same or different anatomic location, as long as it performs the same basic function(s) in the recipient as in the donor.

4-1. The basic functions of skin include covering, protecting the body from external force, and serving as a water-resistant barrier to pathogens or other damaging agents in the external environment. The dermis is the elastic connective tissue layer of the skin that provides a supportive layer of the integument and protects the body from mechanical stress.

  1. An acellular dermal product is used for supplemental support, protection, reinforcement, or covering for a tendon. This is homologous use because in both anatomic locations, the dermis provides support and protects the soft tissue structure from mechanical stress.
  2. An acellular dermal product is used for tendon replacement or repair. This is not homologous use because serving as a connection between muscle and bone is not a basic function of dermis.

4-2. The basic functions of amniotic membrane include serving as a selective barrier for the movement of nutrients between the external and in utero environment and to retain fluid in utero. An amniotic membrane product is used for wound healing of dermal ulcers and defects. This is not homologous use because wound healing of dermal lesions is not a basic function of amniotic membrane.

4-3. The basic functions of pancreatic islets include regulating glucose homeostasis within the body. Pancreatic islets are transplanted into the liver through the portal vein,

7 “Human Cells, Tissues, and Cellular and Tissue-Based Products; Establishment Registration and Listing” 66 FR 5447 at 5458 (January 19, 2001).


Contains Nonbinding Recommendations
Draft – Not for Implementation

for preservation of endocrine function after pancreatectomy. This is homologous use because the regulation of glucose homeostasis is a basic function of pancreatic islets.

  1. What does FDA mean by “intended for homologous use” in 21 CFR 1271.10(a)(2)?

The regulatory criterion in 21 CFR 1271.10(a)(2) states that the HCT/P is intended for homologous use only, as reflected by the labeling, advertising, or other indications of the manufacturer’s objective intent.

Labeling includes the HCT/P label and any written, printed, or graphic materials that supplement, explain, or are textually related to the product, and which are disseminated by or on behalf of its manufacturer.8 Advertising includes information, other than labeling, that originates from the same source as the product and that is intended to supplement, explain, or be textually related to the product (e.g., print advertising, broadcast advertising, electronic advertising (including the Internet), statements of company representatives).9

An HCT/P is intended for homologous use when its labeling, advertising, or other indications of the manufacturer’s objective intent refer to only homologous uses for the HCT/P. When an HCT/P’s labeling, advertising, or other indications of the manufacturer’s objective intent refer to non-homologous uses, the HCT/P would not meet the homologous use criterion in 21 CFR 1271.10(a)(2).

  1. What does FDA mean by “manufacturer’s objective intent” in 21 CFR 1271.10(a)(2)?

A manufacturer’s objective intent is determined by the expressions of the manufacturer or its representatives, or may be shown by the circumstances surrounding the distribution of the article. A manufacturer’s objective intent may, for example, be shown by labeling claims, advertising matter, or oral or written statements by the manufacturer or its representatives. It may be shown by the circumstances that the HCT/P is, with the knowledge of the manufacturer or its representatives, offered for a purpose for which it is neither labeled nor advertised.

Read Full Post »

cancer-hunting virus

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator



A ‘huge milestone’: approval of cancer-hunting virus signals new treatment era

Imlygic programs viruses to attack only cancer cells and gives patients more humane options – potentially ‘a complete change in the game’ in treatment


Microscopic view of pancreatic cancer cells

Microscopic view of pancreatic cancer cells. Photograph: Stocktrek Images, Inc. / Alamy S/Alamy Stock Photo


A new cancer treatment strategy is on the horizon that experts say could be a game-changer and spare patients the extreme side effects of existing options such as chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy and other current cancer treatments are brutal, scorched-earth affairs that work because cancer cells are slightly – but not much – more susceptible to the havoc they wreak than the rest of the body. Their side effects are legion, and in many cases horrifying – from hair loss and internal bleeding to chronic nausea and even death.

But last week the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the first time approved a single treatment that can intelligently target cancer cells while leaving healthy ones alone, and simultaneously stimulate the immune system to fight the cancer itself.

The treatment, which is called T-VEC (for talimogene laherparepvec) but will be sold under the brand name Imlygic, uses a modified virus to hunt cancer cells in what experts said was an important and significant step in the battle against the deadly disease.

It works by introducing a specially modified form of the herpes virus by injection directly into a tumour – specifically skin cancer, the indication for which the drug has been cleared for use.



The FDA is allowing the injectable drug Imlygic, made by Amgen Inc, to be used at first only on melanomas that cannot be removed surgically. The company said a single course would cost about $65,000 depending on the length of the treatment.

The drug is injected directly into tumour tissue, where it uses herpes as a Trojan horse to slip past and rupture cancer cells. The drug combines a gene snippet meant to stimulate the immune system with a modified version of the herpes simplex virus — the kind that causes mouth cold sores.

Despite the drug’s groundbreaking approach FDA officials stressed it had not been shown to extend life. Instead company studies showed that about 16% of patients injected with the drug saw their tumours shrink, compared with 2% of patients who took more conventional cancer drugs. That effect lasted at least six months.

Regulators stressed that Imlygic had no effect on melanoma that had spread to the brain, lungs or other internal organs.

Amgen said patients should be treated with the drug for at least six months, or until there were no more tumours left to treat.

The drug — known chemically as talimogene laherparepvec or T-VEC — divides into copies repeatedly until the membranes, or outer layers, of the cancer cells burst. Meanwhile the gene snippet produces a protein to stimulate an immune response to kill melanoma cells in the tumour and elsewhere in the body.

A 2013 review in the journal Molecular Cancer concluded that cancer-fighting viruses armed with genes that stimulate the immune system “are potent therapeutic cancer vaccines”.


It was developed by the Massachusetts-based biotech company BioVex, which was acquired in 2011 by biotech behemoth Amgen for $1bn. The genetic code of the virus – which was originally taken from the cold sore of a BioVex employee – has been modified so it can kill only cancer cells.

Cancer-hunting viruses have long been thought of as a potential source of a more humane and targeted treatment for cancer. Unlike current oncological treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which kill cancer cells but also damage the rest of the body, viruses can be programmed to attack only the cancer cells, leaving patients to suffer the equivalent of just a day or two’s flu.

Treatments such as Imlygic have two modes of action: first, the virus directly attacks the cancer cells; and second, it triggers the body’s immune system to attack the rogue cells too once it detects the virus’s presence.

Dr Stephen Russell, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic who specialises in oncolytic virotherapy – as these treatments are known – says that the FDA’s clearance of Imlygic represents “a huge milestone” in cancer treatment development.

Viruses are “nature’s last untapped bioresource”, Russell said. Imlygic itself has an officially fairly modest effect coming out of its clinical studies – an average lifespan increase of less than five months. But underneath that data, Russell said anecdotally that in his Mayo clinic studies in mice, some programmable viruses saw “large tumours completely disappearing”.

The goal, he said, was to get to the point where the clinical trials would see similarly dramatic outcomes, so that chemotherapy and radiotherapy could finally be consigned to medical history.

John Bell, a researcher into viral cancer therapies at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Ottawa, Canada, said that while T-VEC was designed to be directly injected into a tumour – as opposed to being delivered to the whole body as a systemic treatment would be – the results showed systemic effects in some cases.

Some of the treatments use a modified version of measles, rather than herpes, as a vehicle. Both Russell and Bell pointed to a trial participant of Russell’s named Stacy Erholtz, whose incurable myeloma – blood cancer – disappeared, largely side effect free, in 36 hours after a treatment using a modified measles virus, an example of the kind of miraculous results that viral oncology researchers hope to replicate.

Of course, individual success stories like Erholtz’s are relatively meaningless without the hard data that come with replicable and repeated clinical trials. There are currently a number of similar treatments at the third stage of clinical testing – still several years of work behind Imlygic in terms of development – but progress is being made.

Russell is hopeful that Imlygic represents “a first step in the direction of a complete change in the game” in how we treat cancer. “We can’t prematurely claim that we’ve achieved our ultimate goal, because we haven’t; this really is a single step along that path,” he said. “But it’s a very important and very significant step.”


Read Full Post »


FDA Guidance Documents Update

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

You are subscribed to FDA Guidance Documents for U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

This information has recently been updated and is now available.

Recently posted guidance documents

10/14/15: General Considerations for Animal Studies for Medical Devices – Draft Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff

10/14/15: Recommendations for Microbial Vectors Used for Gene Therapy; Draft Guidance for Industry

10/15/15: Draft PDEs for Triethylamine and for Methylisobutylketone

10/15/15: ICH Q3C Maintenance Procedures for the Guidance for Industry Q3C Impurities: Residual Solvents

10/19/15: CVM GFI #229 – Evaluating the Effectiveness of New Animal Drugs for the Reduction of Pathogenic Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli in Cattle

10/21/15: Selection of the Appropriate Package Type Terms and Recommendations for Labeling Injectable Medical Products Packaged in Multiple-Dose, Single-Dose, and Single-Patient-Use Containers for Human Use

10/21/15: Manufacturing Site Change Supplements: Content and Submission – Draft Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff

10/26/15: Interim Policy on Compounding Using Bulk Drug Substances Under Section 503A of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act Guidance for Industry

10/26/15: Interim Policy on Compounding Using Bulk Drug Substances Under Section 503B of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act

10/26/15: Pharmacy Compounding of Human Drug Products Under Section 503A of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act Guidance

10/27/15: Nonclinical Safety Evaluation of Reformulated Drug Products and Products Intended for Administration by an Alternate Route

10/27/15: Product Development Under the Animal Rule

10/28/15: DSCSA Implementation: Product Tracing Requirements for Dispensers — Compliance Policy (Revised) Guidance for Industry

10/29/15: Liposome Drug Products: Chemistry, Manufacturing, and Controls; Human Pharmacokinetics and Bioavailability; and Labeling Documentation

Guidance Document Search

•    Search all FDA official guidance documents and other regulatory guidance

Read Full Post »

New Topoisomerase Inhibitors in Clinical Trials

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

Below is a great review of topoisomerase in cancer, approved inhibitors as well as some in clinical trials.

Biomolecules 2015, 5, 1652-1670; doi:10.3390/biom5031652



ISSN 2218-273X


Inhibition of Topoisomerase (DNA) I (TOP1): DNA Damage Repair and Anticancer Therapy

Yang Xu and Chengtao Her *

School of Molecular Biosciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, Mail Drop 64-7520, Pullman, WA 99164, USA; E-Mail:

* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed; E-Mail:; Tel.: +1-509-335-7537; Fax: +1-509-335-4159.

Academic Editors: Wolf-Dietrich Heyer, Thomas Helleday and Fumio Hanaoka Received: 22 May 2015 / Accepted: 14 July 2015 / Published: 22 July 2015

Abstract: Most chemotherapy regimens contain at least one DNA-damaging agent that preferentially affects the growth of cancer cells. This strategy takes advantage of the differences in cell proliferation between normal and cancer cells. Chemotherapeutic drugs are usually designed to target rapid-dividing cells because sustained proliferation is a common feature of cancer [1,2]. Rapid DNA replication is essential for highly proliferative cells, thus blocking of DNA replication will create numerous mutations and/or chromosome rearrangements—ultimately triggering cell death [3]. Along these lines, DNA topoisomerase inhibitors are of great interest because they help to maintain strand breaks generated by topoisomerases during replication. In this article, we discuss the characteristics of topoisomerase (DNA) I (TOP1) and its inhibitors, as well as the underlying DNA repair pathways and the use of TOP1 inhibitors in cancer therapy.

Biomolecules 2015, 5                                                                                                                           1653

  1. Type IB Topoisomerases and Inhibitors
    1.1. TOP1

DNA topoisomerases resolve topological constraints that may arise from DNA strand separation and are therefore important for transcription and replication [4]. There are six topoisomerases in humans, classified as Type IA, IB and IIA. Type IA topoisomerases TOP3a and TOP3b cleave one DNA strand to relax only negative supercoiling. In addition, TOP3a forms the BTR complex with BLM and RMI1/2, which plays a role in the dissolution of double-Holliday junctions [5]. Type IIA topoisomerases TOP2a and TOP2b generate double-strand breaks on one DNA molecule to allow the passing of other DNA strands [6]. Topoisomerases are attractive drug targets in cancer therapy. For example, the commonly used anticancer agents doxorubicin and etoposide (VP-16) are TOP2 inhibitors [7]. Type IB topoisomerases include the nuclear TOP1 and mitochondrial TOP1mt [4]. TOP1 initiates the DNA relaxation by nicking one DNA strand. It then forms a TOP1-DNA cleavage complex (TOP1cc) by covalently linked to the 3′-phosphate end via its tyrosine residue Y723 (3′-P-Y). Following the resolution of topological entanglements and the removal of TOP1, the 5′-hydroxyl end is realigned with the 3′-end for religation. Each nicking-closing cycle enables the relaxation of one DNA supercoiling (Figure 1).

Figure 1. A schematic representation of strand passages catalyzed by three types of topoisomerases (adapted from ref. [8]).


TOP1 is essential for embryonic development in mammals [9]. Although TOP1 plays an important role in the deconvolution of supercoils arising amid DNA replication, the precise steps involved with

Biomolecules 2015, 5                                                                                                                         1654

the recruitment of TOP1 to topological constraints remains to be revealed. It appears that in yeast TOP1 travels at a distance of 600 bp ahead of the replication fork [10] and remains associated with the GINS-MCM complex [11]. However, the yeast TOP1 is distinct from its human counterpart in that it has little effect on fork progression or the firing of replication origin [12]. In humans, TOP1 binds to the regions of the pre-replicative complex in cells during the M, early G1, and G1/S phases of the cell cycle to control the firing of replication origins [12]. This difference may explain why yeast cells are viable in the absence of TOP1. In addition, TOP1 also has functions in transcription that are independent of its role in resolving DNA topological entanglements. First, TOP1 is known to repress transcription by binding to TFIID [13]. Second, inhibition of TOP1 can cause the induction of c-Jun in leukemia cells, suggesting its additional role in the control of transcription [14]. Furthermore, TOP1 interacts with the splicing factor ASF/SF2 by which it promotes the maturation of RNA—through suppressing the formation of R-loops (RNA-DNA hybrids)—and prevents collision between transcription bubble and replication fork [15,16]. It appears that the levels of TOP1 have to be dynamically regulated. In B cells, TOP1 is reduced by activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) to facilitate class-switch recombination (CSR) and somatic hypermutation (SHM) [17,18]. Although TOP1mt is important for mitochondrial integrity and metabolism, mice lacking mitochondrial TOP1mt are viable and fertile but they are associated with increased negative supercoiling of mtDNA [19,20].

1.2. TOP1 Inhibitors

Stabilization of TOP1cc by topoisomerase poison is detrimental to cells due to the disruption of DNA uncoiling, increased strand breaks, and unstable RNA transcripts as well as incomplete DNA replication [21]. The TOP1 inhibitor camptothecin (CPT), first isolated from the Chinese tree Camptotheca acuminate, was clinically used for cancer treatment long before it was identified as a TOP1 inhibitor [22]. Due to side effects, CPT is no longer used clinically and it has been replaced by more effective and safer TOP1 inhibitors [23]. Currently, CPT derivatives topotecan (trade name: Hycamtin) and irinotecan (CPT-11, trade name: Camptosar) are routinely used to treat colorectal, ovarian and lung cancers, while a few other TOP1 inhibitors are being tested in clinical trials.

CPT is a 5-ring alkaloid that is active in its closed E-ring (lactone) form but it is inactive with an open E-ring (carboxylate) at physiological and alkaline pH [24]. Therefore, CPT is not effective for inhibiting TOP1mt due to a higher pH mitochondrial environment. The inactive form of CPT tends to bind to serum albumin, which might be a reason for its side effects. CPT is highly specific for TOP1 and the binding is of relatively low affinity and can be reversed after drug removal. These features make the action of CPT controllable [24], and in fact CPT is widely used in studies of replication-associated DNA damage response. There are a few CPT derivatives and non-CPT TOP1 inhibitors [4,8,24]. For example, CPT derivatives Diflomotecan and S39625 were designed to stabilize the E-ring. Irinotecan has the bis-piperidine side chain to increase its water solubility, but it also contributes to some side effects. Non-CPTs—such as indolocarbazoles, phenanthrolines (e.g., ARC-111) and indenoisoquinolines—refer to drugs that have no typical CPT E-ring structures but they can still specifically target TOP1 and bind irreversibly to TOP1cc. Some of the CPT derivatives (i.e., Gimatecan and Belotecan) and non-CPTs (i.e., NSC 725776 and NSC 724998) are presently tested in clinical trials [23].

Biomolecules 2015, 5                                                                                                                           1655

How does CPT trap TOP1cc? Analysis of the crystal structure and modeling suggest that CPT-TOP1-DNA forms a ternary complex to prevent the two DNA ends from religation [25–27]. Although it is still controversial on how CPT is intercalated into DNA, it seems that CPT traps TOP1cc with a thymine (T) at the -1 position and a guanine (G) at the +1 position on the scissile strand, and it is therefore sequence-specific [28]. Three amino acid residues of the TOP1 enzyme, R364, D533 and N722, combined with DNA bases, contribute to the stabilization of the ternary complex by forming hydrogen bonds and hydrophobic interactions. It is of note that several point mutations, including N722S, in Camptotheca acuminata TOP1 confer resistance to CPT [29]. Interestingly, the same amino acids also contribute to the inhibition of TOP1 by non-CPT drugs [24].

  1. Repair of TOP1 Poison-Induced DNA Lesions

As aforementioned, CPT-induced trapping of TOP1cc creates a single strand break with a free 5′-hydroxyl group, whereas the 3′-phosphate is connected to Y723 of TOP1 (3′-P-Y). At least two pathways contribute to the repair of DNA lesions created by TOP1 poison [30]. The tyrosyl-DNA-phosphodiesterase (TDP1) pathway starts with the ubiquitination and proteasome-mediated degradation of TOP1 in the CPT-TOP1-DNA complex to generate a 3′-P end linked to a short peptide [31]. TDP1 then cleaves the P-Y bond to release the 3′-P end; however, the 3′-P end cannot be directly ligated to the 5′-OH end because of the requirements of DNA ligases. The human polynucleotide kinase (PNKP) can process the DNA ends by functioning as both a 3′-phosphatase and a kinase to generate the required 3′-OH and 5′-P termini for direct ligation. The rest of the repair events can be best described by the single-strand break (SSB) repair pathway, which will be discussed below. Indeed, TDP1 and PNKP are tightly associated with the SSB repair machinery [32,33].

The endonuclease pathway requires multiple endonucleases to excise the DNA—usually at a few nucleotides away from the 3′-P-TOP1 end – on the scissile strand to release the DNA-TOP1 complex [30]. Initial studies were carried out to identify genes that functioned in CPT repair in the absence of TDP1 in yeast [34,35]. These studies led to the identification of RAD1-RAD10, SLX1-SLX4, MUS81-MMS4, MRE11-SAE2 as well as genes involved in recombination. The RAD1-RAD10 (human XPF/ERCC4-ERCC1) complex is a DNA structure-specific endonuclease that can act on 5′ overhang structures [36]. Interestingly, the cleavage site of XPF-ERCC1 is in the non-protruding DNA strand, about 3–4 nucleotides away from the 3′ end [36]. Therefore, trapped TOP1ccs can be removed by this endonuclease activity. Likewise, MUS81-MMS4 (human MUS81-EME1) can also cleave nicked duplex at the 5′ of the nick [37]. The SLX1-SLX4 endonuclease, although not tested on nicked duplexes, is able to process 3′ flap and other DNA structures [38,39]. In human cells, SLX4 also associates with XPF-ERCC1 and MUS81-EME1 endonucleases to process specific DNA intermediates [39,40]. Moreover, MRE11-RAD50 cleaves the 3′-P-Y bond and resects DNA to produce a 3′-OH end [41]. A direct role of SAE2 (human CtIP) in processing 3′-P-TOP1 is unknown, and its endonuclease activity appears to be limited to the 5′ flap or DNA “hairpin” structures [42,43]. Nonetheless, the endonuclease activity of CtIP is essential for processing CPT adducts [42]. In addition, like CtIP, the 5′ flap endonuclease RAD27 (human FEN1) seems to be unable to directly process 3′-P-TOP1 ends [44]. However, the gap endonuclease activity of FEN1 is important for processing stalled replication forks and CPT-induced adducts [45]. The role of FEN1 in SSB repair will be discussed further in the next section.

Biomolecules 2015, 5                                                                                                                           1656

During DNA replication, SSBs created by CPT are most likely converted to double-strand breaks (DSBs) by replication fork runoff. This conversion appears to be dependent on the proteolysis of TOP1 [46]. The repair of one-ended DSBs, as will be discussed in the next section, is largely dependent on homologous recombination (HR). However, low doses of CPT may also induce PARP1 and/or RAD51 dependent replication fork regression—generating no or few DSBs [47,48]. The regressed fork leads to the formation of a “chicken foot” DNA structure by newly synthesized strands [3,49,50]. The formation of regressed fork can be largely suppressed by ATR, EXO1, and DNA2 [51–53]. However, fork reversal can also be beneficial as it provides time for the repair of TOP1-induced DNA lesions by TDP1, thereby preventing DSB formation and the activation of error-prone non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) [30].

  1. Pathways Involved in the Repair of CPT-Induced DNA Lesions

Normal cells use DNA damage response (DDR) pathways to maintain genomic stability [54]. As aforementioned, SSB and DSB repair mechanisms are the two major DDR pathways that repair TOP1-induced DNA lesions. Paradoxically, cancer cells exploit DDR pathways to accumulate necessary genomic alterations for promoting proliferation. Furthermore, altered DDR and apoptotic responses in cancer cells are the major obstacles to successful chemotherapy. Thus, the delineation of TOP1-related SSB and DSB repair mechanisms is of great importance for identifying drug targets that can selectively affect cancer cell survival.

3.1. Single-Strand Break (SSB) Repair

Trapping of TOP1cc results in a 3′-P-TOP1 end and a 5′-OH terminus. Because the two ends cannot be directly religated, the persisting SSB is likely to be detected by PARP1 in which activated PARP1 catalyzes the synthesis of poly(ADP-ribose) (PAR) chains for recruiting repair proteins [55]. This reaction can be rapidly reversed by PARG, which hydrolyzes the PAR chains. The PAR chains at the SSB sites are important for the recruitment of XRCC1 that functions as a loading dock for other SSB repair proteins including TDP1 and PNKP. TDP1 generates 3′-P and PNKP converts 3′-P to 3′-OH, and PNKP also converts 5′-OH to 5′-P, making ends compatible for religation with no base loss. The rejoining of the 3′-OH and 5′-P ends is mainly mediated by LIG3, in which XRCC1 mediates the recruitment of LIG3.

If the trapped TOP1cc intermediates are processed by endonucleases, the initial SSBs will be converted to 3′-OH and 5′-OH ends with a gap over a few nucleotides (in the case of XPF-ERCC1, the loss is in the range of 3–4 nt), leading to the activation of PARP1 and XRCC1 recruitment. Consequentially, Pol3 recruited by XRCC1 can catalyze the gap filling, and PCNA-Polö/E also plays a role in this process [55]. If the 5′-OH is not processed by PNKP, the 5′-flap resulted from gap filling is likely to be removed by FEN1, which explains why FEN1 deficiency also leads to an increased CPT sensitivity. The final ligation is catalyzed by LIG1 because of the presence of PCNA.

Biomolecules 2015, 5                                                                                                                           1657

3.2. Double-Strand Break (DSB) Repair

Successful DSB repair requires concerted actions of proteins involved in DNA damage signaling and repair [54]. To repair TOP1 poison-induced DNA lesions, ATR signaling is required due to the runoff of replication fork and the presence of long single-strand DNA (ssDNA) [56]. The full activation of ATR follows a “two-man” rule—the ssDNA-ATRIP-dependent recruitment of ATR kinase and the RAD17 clamp loader/9-1-1/TOPBP1 mediator loading at the ssDNA-dsDNA junction. ATR phosphorylates CHEK1 to harness cell cycle arrest. If one-ended DSB is formed, ATM will be activated through the action of the MRE11-RAD50-NBS1 (MRN) complex. ATM mainly phosphorylates CHEK2 to mediate cell cycle arrest. Both ATM and ATR are able to phosphorylate hundreds of proteins in response to DSB formation [57]. One remarkable substrate is the histone H2AX, which can be phosphorylated by both kinases to yield g-H2AX. It is conceived that the propagation of g-H2AX signaling along the chromatin facilitates MDC1 recruitment and BRCA1 signaling via the MDC1-RNF8-RNF168-RAP80 ubiquitin cascade—events that are essential for HR [58].

The repair of TOP1 poison-induced DNA lesions is in essence the repair of one-ended DSBs, which facilitates the restoration of replication forks to restart DNA replication. It is important to note that one-ended DSB repair occurs in the S phase and relies on HR rather than NHEJ [59]. The first step in HR is end resection to generate a 3′-overhang for homology searching. A TOP1 cleavage in the leading strand may require end resection by the MRN-CtIP-BRCA1 and BLM-EXO1-DNA2 complexes [60], whereas a cleavage in the lagging strand automatically forms a 3′-overhang. Rad51 then associates with the 3′-ssDNA to form a nucleofilament for strand invasion, which leads to the formation of a D-loop structure [61]. This process continues with DNA synthesis, branch migration and the resolution of Holliday junction structures to reconstitute a functional replication fork [62]. TOP1 poisons can also lead to the formation of two-ended DSB if two replication forks collide into each other at the site of SSB. The repair of this type of DSBs is not aimed for fork restoration and can be accomplished by the classical DSB repair mechanisms [61].

3.3. Genes Involved in CPT-Induced Damage Repair

A long list of genes, in which mutations confer sensitivity to CPT in yeast, chicken or mammalian cells, has been compiled [24,30,63]. With no surprise, many genes involved in SSB and DSB repair are on the list, such as PARP1, XRCC1, PNKP, TDP1 for SSB repair; MRN, ATM-CHK2, ATR-CHK1 for DSB signaling; BRCA1/2, XRCC2, XRCC3 for HR. Most recently, the hMSH5-FANCJ complex has also been implicated to play a role in CPT-induced DNA damage response and repair [64]. Mutations in the binding partners of these repair factors are also likely to sensitize cells to CPT treatment. For example, depletion of the MRN-binding partner hnRNPUL increases the sensitivity to CPT [65]; and deficiencies in ZRANB3 and SPIDR, binding partners of PCNA and RAD51, cause CPT hypersensitivity in cancer cells [66–68]. In addition, the two DNA helicases BLM and WRN have also been implicated in the repair of CPT-induced DNA lesions [69,70]. Early studies revealed that chicken BLM knockout cells and human BLM-deficient fibroblasts showed increased sensitivity to CPT [71,72]. On the contrary, mouse BLM knockout embryonic stem cells showed mild resistance to

Biomolecules 2015, 5                                                                                                                           1658

CPT [73]. This discrepancy is likely attributable to the complexity of CPT-induced DNA lesion repair as well as different treatment conditions and experimental systems.

Interstrand crosslinks (ICLs) resemble CPT-induced lesions in that they block both replication and transcription [74]. They may induce replication fork reversal and fork collapse, which require DNA incision for lesion processing and HR for repair. ICL repair is accomplished by the coordinated actions of 17 Fanconi anemia (FA) genes whose mutations contribute to FA in patients [75]. Depletion of FANCP/SLX4 or FANCQ/XPF causes cellular sensitivity to CPT because they form an endonuclease complex involved in the repair of trapped TOP1cc [38]. Likewise, depletion of FANCS/BRCA1, FANCD1/BRCA2, FANCN/PALB2 or FANCO/RAD51C sensitizes cells to CPT because of their involvement in HR [76]. Accordingly, depletion of the FA core complex except FANCM—involved in fork reversal—is not expected to increase CPT sensitivity because they are unable to recognize the trapped TOP1cc [76]. However, the roles of FANCI, D2, J and FAN1 in the process are elusive due to conflicting reports presumably reflecting different experimental systems [76–78]. For example, in a multicolor competition assay, loss of FANCI or FAN1 rendered cells sensitive to CPT treatment [77]. However, this observation could not be recapitulated in studies performed with FANCI-deficient lymphoblasts and FAN1-depleted HEK293 cells [76,79], indicating that the involvement of these two genes in CTP sensitivity might be cell type specific.

It is interesting to note that the MMS22L-TONSL complex plays a prominent role in mediating CPT sensitivity [80–83]. Depletion of this complex impairs RAD51 foci formation and triggers G2/M arrest, indicating that the MMS22L-TONSL complex participates in HR repair. Furthermore, this complex associates with MCM, FACT, ASF1 and histones. FACT and ASF1 are histone chaperones that function in H2A/H2B and H3/H4 chromatin assembly and disassembly, respectively [84]. They recycle parental histones from old DNA strands unwound by MCM and incorporate them into newly synthesized DNA strands. FACT and ASF1 also function in checkpoint signaling; therefore the involvement of MMS22L-TONSL in CPT response implies the existence of a close association between HR, DNA damage signaling and replication restart.

  1. TOP1 Inhibition in Cancer Treatment

The understanding of the function of TOP1 and the cellular effects of TOP1 inhibition has been a stepping-stone for the development of effective CPT derivatives in cancer therapy. Since TOP1 functions in normal and cancer cells, the use of low doses of TOP1 inhibitors are actively sought to treat cancers that heavily rely on the function of TOP1 for survival (e.g., highly malignant, rapid-dividing tumor cells). In fact, the FDA-approved CPT derivatives topotecan and irinotecan are currently used to treat ovarian and colorectal cancers, respectively [24].

Furthermore, the promising results from a Phase I trial have warranted further evaluation of the CPT derivative Diflomotecan in Phase II trials [85]. Other derivatives like Gimatecan, Lurtotecan and Exatecan are also being tested in clinical trials (Table 1). The non-CPT indolocarbazole BMS-250749 showed great anti-tumor activity against preclinical xenograft models [86], but no further evaluation beyond Phase I trials is presently available (Table 2). Another indolocarbazole compound Edotecarin has shown promising anti-tumor activity in xenograft models and it is now advanced to Phase II studies of patients with advanced solid tumors [87]. By contrast, Phenanthroline ARC-111 (topovale)

Biomolecules 2015, 5                                                                                                                             1659

was potently against human tumor xenografts and displayed anti-cancer activity in colon and Wilms’ tumors [88]; however, no result from Phase I clinical trials is available owing to profound bone marrow toxicity [89]. To date, indenoisoquinolines are the most promising non-CPT inhibitors in clinical trials. LMP400 (NSC 743400, indotecan) and LMP776 (NSC 725776, indimitecan) show significant anti-tumor activities in animal models and both are being evaluated in Phase I clinical trials for relapsed solid tumors and lymphomas [8,90].

Table 1. CPT derivatives in clinical trials [91].

Name                            Structure                     Clinical Trial            Malignancy        Reference

Biomolecules 2015, 5                                                                                                                           1660

Given the observation that CPT-mediated TOP1 inhibition provokes DNA repair activities, a synergistic effect is then anticipated on cancer cells by inhibition of TOP1 and downregulation of DNA repair activities. The rationale for this approach is to accelerate the accumulation of DNA breaks and trigger cellular apoptosis, probably through mitotic catastrophe [92]. Which DNA repair pathways can we exploit? Currently, the major interests are in SSB and DSB repair mechanisms. Indeed, PARP inhibitors can enhance the cytotoxicity of TOP1 inhibitors in cancer cell lines as well as in mouse models [93–96]. Phase I studies of combination therapy using PARP inhibitors veliparib or olaparib (FDA-approved) together with topotecan were carried out in patients with advanced solid tumors but showed some dose-dependent side effects [97,98]. TDP1 can be another potential target because it functions directly downstream of PARP1 in the repair of TOP1 poison-induced DNA lesions [99]. TDP1 inhibitors sensitize cells to CPT treatment in vitro [100,101], however in vivo evaluation is presently unavailable due to unsuitable properties of the compounds [102].

Table 2. Non-CPT derivatives in preclinical and clinical trials [91].

Name                       Structure               Clinical Trial            Malignancy             Reference

Phase II

(Edotecarin, Pfizer)

Stomach, breast
Anti-tumor activity
in preclinical
xenograft models
Anti-tumor activity

Preclinical                    in preclinical            [88,89,103]
xenograft models

(LMP400, LMP776)
Phase I                              Lymphomas             [8,90,103]

DSB repair can be targeted by either inhibition of DSB signaling or inhibition of HR. ATM and ATR inhibitors can largely increase the sensitivity to CPT in cancer cells [104,105]. This can be explained by the fact that abrogation of the cell cycle arrest will allow cells with unreplicated or unrepaired chromosomes to enter mitosis thereby triggering mitotic catastrophe and cell death. Similarly, CHEK1 and CHEK2 inhibitors are tested in Phase I studies in combination with irinotecan [106,107]. Inhibitors that can directly block HR proteins are very limited [108]. This is partially attributed to the fact that HR genes are often mutated in cancer cells, thus diminishing the enthusiasm for developing HR inhibitors. One diterpenoid compound, however, was found to be able to inhibit the function of BRCA1 and render cytotoxicity in human prostate cancer cells [109]. Several RAD51 inhibitors have also been

Biomolecules 2015, 5                                                                                                                           1661

identified but have not been tested in cell lines [110]. Inhibition of BRCA1 and RAD51 can be also achieved indirectly by harnessing corresponding kinases [106]. Clearly, defective hMRE11 sensitizes colon cancer cells to CPT treatment [111]. Although MRE11-deficeint tumor xenografts failed to display significant growth inhibition by irinotecan alone, combining thymidine with irinotecan caused a dramatic growth delay [112].

TOP1 inhibitors might be also useful for treating cancers with BRCA1/2 mutations. The successful use of PARP inhibitors in treating BRCA1/2-deficient tumors has ignited a broad interest in searching for synthetic lethality among DNA damage response and repair genes [113,114]. In the PARP-BRCA1/2 example, the accumulation of SSBs by PARP inhibition would lead to the formation of DSBs during replication. In HR-deficient cells, DSBs can only be repaired by illegitimate (toxic) NHEJ—joining one-ended DSBs from different locations—leading to cell death [115,116]. However, resistance to PARP inhibitors can arise in BRCA1-deficient tumors during treatment from either genetic reversion of BRCA1 mutations or the loss of NHEJ [117–122]. Therefore, it would be beneficial to explore the possibility of developing a similar synthetic lethal strategy to use TOP1 inhibitors in the treatment of BRCA1/2-deficient tumors.

Figure 2. An overview of the effects of TOP1 inhibition is provided. Inhibitors and key DNA repair factors are highlighted.

Biomolecules 2015, 5                                                                                                                         1662

  1. Conclusions

Trapping of TOP1 by inhibitors generates SSBs and DSBs that are repaired by their corresponding repair pathways (Figure 2). Therefore, developing effective TOP1 inhibitors not only provides powerful tools to study DNA replication and repair but also establishes a foundation to devise new synthetic lethal strategies for efficient cancer treatments. The accumulation of DNA strand breaks (SSBs and DSBs) by TOP1 inhibition in HR-deficient tumor cells is expected to enhance cytotoxicity. However, increased DNA repair activities in cancer cells can make TOP1 inhibitors less effective, so silencing of repair pathways in conjunction with the use of TOP1 inhibitors offers an attractive new means for cancer control. Since each tumor is unique, it would be advantageous to identify the individualities of DNA repair pathways or biomarkers reflecting the changes of DNA repair activities in tumor cells [92,123]. This will make it possible to achieve better and predictable prognosis through tailored therapeutic regimens. Given that TOP1 is essential for transcription and DNA replication, future design of novel TOP1 inhibitors and combinational therapy strategies should aim to increase therapeutic efficacy of the inhibitors, thus reducing side effects.


The work in the Her laboratory is supported by the NIH grant GM084353.

Author Contributions

Yang Xu and Chengtao Her wrote and revised the article.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest with the contents of this article.

Please see the following file for the referencesReferences for top paper

From a 2015 Clinical Cancer Research paper:

Phase 1 clinical pharmacology study of F14512, a new polyamine-vectorized anti-cancer drug, in naturally occurring canine lymphoma

Dominique Tierny1, Francois Serres1, Zacharie Segaoula1, Ingrid Bemelmans1, Emmanuel Bouchaert1,

Aurelie Petain2, Viviane Brel3, Stephane Couffin4, Thierry Marchal5, Laurent Nguyen6, Xavier Thuru7,

Pierre Ferre2, Nicolas Guilbaud8, and Bruno Gomes9,*


Purpose: F14512 is a new topoisomerase II inhibitor containing a spermine moiety that facilitates selective uptake by tumor cells and increases topoisomerase II poisoning. F14512 is currently in Phase I/II clinical trial in patients with acute myeloid leukemia. The aim of this study was to investigate F14512 potential in a new clinical indication. Because of the many similarities between human and dog lymphomas, we sought to determine the tolerance, efficacy, PK/PD relationship of F14512 in this indication, and potential biomarkers that could be translated into human trials. Experimental design: Twenty-three dogs with stage III-IV naturally occurring lymphomas were enrolled in the Phase 1 dose-escalation trial which consisted of three cycles of F14512 intravenous injections. Endpoints included safety and therapeutic efficacy. Serial blood samples and tumor biopsies were obtained for PK/PD and biomarker studies. Results: Five dose levels were evaluated in order to determine the recommended dose. F14512 was well tolerated, with the expected dose-dependent hematological toxicity. F14512 induced an early decrease of tumoral lymph node cells, and a high response rate of 91% (21/23) with 10 complete responses, 11 partial responses, 1 stable disease and 1 progressive disease. Phosphorylation of histone H2AX was studied as a potential pharmacodynamic biomarker of F14512. Conclusions: This trial demonstrated that F14512 can be safely administered to dogs with lymphoma resulting in strong therapeutic efficacy. Additional evaluation of F14512 is needed to compare its efficacy with standards of care in dogs, and to translate biomarker and efficacy findings into clinical trials in humans.

AND From ASCO 2015 Annual Meeting

Survival impact of switching to different topoisomerase I or II inhibitors-based regimens (topo-I or topo-II) in extensive-disease small cell lung cancer (ED-SCLC): supplemental analysis from JCOG0509.


Background: The J0509 (phase III study for chemotherapy-naive ED-SCLC) demonstrated amrubicin plus cisplatin (AP) was inferior to irinotecan plus cisplatin (IP). However, median overall survival (OS) of both AP and IP (15 and 17 mo) was more favorable than those of previous trials (9-12 mo), probably because switching to different topo-I or topo-II in the second-line therapy, especially the use of topo-II in IP arm, was frequent. This analysis aimed to investigate whether observed survival benefit of IP arm can be explained by the treatment switching, and how post-protocol chemotherapy affected the result of J0509. Methods: Two analysis sets from J0509 were used: all randomized 283 pts and 250 pts who received post-protocol chemotherapy. One pt without initiation date of second-line therapy was excluded. A rank-preserving structural failure time (RPSFT) model was used to estimate “causal survival benefit” that would have been observed if all pts had been followed with the same type of regimen as randomized throughout the follow-up period. Additionally, to assess the survival impact of second-line use of topo-II, OS after initiating second-line therapy (OS2) was analyzed by multivariate Cox models. Results: %treatment switching in IP arm and AP arm was 65.2% (92/141) and 43.7% (62/142). By RPSFT model, estimated OS excluding the effect of the treatment switching was 2.7-fold longer in IP (topo-I) arm than AP (topo-II) arm. This causal survival benefit was stronger than the original report of J0509 (nearly 1.4-fold extension by Cox model), indicating that re-challenging topo-I in IP arm appeared beneficial. The multivariate Cox analysis for OS2 (n = 250) revealed second-line use of topo-II was detrimental (hazard ratio, 1.5; 95%CI, 1.1-2.1). Among sensitive relapsed pts in IP arm, OS2 was favorable in the following order: irinotecan-based regimen > the other topo-I > topo-II. Conclusions: IP remains the standard therapy. Re-challenging topo-I, especially irinotecan-based topo-I, seemed beneficial for IP-sensitive pts. This result should be confirmed in further investigations with large sample size. Clinical trial information: 000000720.





Below is actively recruiting clinical trials evaluating topoisomerase inhibitors. Shown are only a few trials for a complete list from please see this link:

A service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health

897 studies found for:    topoisomerase inhibitor | Open Studies

Include only open studies Exclude studies with Unknown status

Status Study
Recruiting A Study of Standard Treatment +/- Enoxaparin in Small Cell Lung Cancer

Condition: Small Cell Lung Cancer
Interventions: Drug: cisplatinum or carboplatin and e.g.etoposide.;   Drug: cisplatinum or carboplatin and e.g.etoposide+enoxaparin
Recruiting A Phase I Study of Indenoisoquinolines LMP400 and LMP776 in Adults With Relapsed Solid Tumors and Lymphomas

Conditions: Neoplasms;   Lymphoma
Interventions: Drug: LMP 400;   Drug: LMP 776
Recruiting A Dose-Ranging Study Evaluating the Efficacy, Safety, and Tolerability of GSK2140944 in the Treatment of Uncomplicated Urogenital Gonorrhea Caused by Neisseria Gonorrhoeae

Condition: Gonorrhea
Intervention: Drug: GSK2140944
Recruiting Selinexor in Combination With Irinotecan in Adenocarcinoma of Stomach and Distal Esophagus

Conditions: Esophageal Cancer;   Gastric Cancer
Interventions: Drug: Selinexor;   Drug: Irinotecan
Recruiting Multimodal Molecular Targeted Therapy to Treat Relapsed or Refractory High-risk Neuroblastoma

Condition: Neuroblastoma Recurrent
Interventions: Drug: Dasatinib;   Drug: Rapamycin;   Drug: Irinotecan;   Drug: Temozolomide
Unknown  Study of the Farnesyl Transferase Inhibitor, R115777, in Combination With Topotecan (NYU 99-32)

Condition: Cancer
Interventions: Drug: R115777 (farnesyl transferase inhibitor);   Drug: Topotecan
Recruiting Pegylated Irinotecan NKTR 102 in Treating Patients With Relapsed Small Cell Lung Cancer

Condition: Recurrent Small Cell Lung Carcinoma
Interventions: Other: Laboratory Biomarker Analysis;   Drug: Pegylated Irinotecan;   Other: Pharmacological Study
Recruiting Selinexor and Chemotherapy in Treating Patients With Relapsed or Refractory Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Conditions: Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia With 11q23 (MLL) Abnormalities;   Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia With Del(5q);   Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia With Inv(16)(p13;q22);   Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia With t(15;17)(q22;q12);   Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia With t(16;16)(p13;q22);   Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia With t(8;21)(q22;q22);   Recurrent Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia;   Secondary Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Interventions: Drug: mitoxantrone hydrochloride;   Drug: etoposide;   Drug: cytarabine;   Drug: selinexor;   Other: laboratory biomarker analysis;   Other: pharmacological study
Recruiting WEE1 Inhibitor MK-1775 and Irinotecan Hydrochloride in Treating Younger Patients With Relapsed or Refractory Solid Tumors

Conditions: Childhood Solid Neoplasm;   Recurrent Childhood Medulloblastoma;   Recurrent Childhood Supratentorial Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumor;   Recurrent Neuroblastoma
Interventions: Drug: Irinotecan Hydrochloride;   Other: Laboratory Biomarker Analysis;   Other: Pharmacological Study;   Drug: WEE1 Inhibitor AZD1775
Recruiting PARP Inhibitor BMN-673 and Temozolomide or Irinotecan Hydrochloride in Treating Patients With Locally Advanced or Metastatic Solid Tumors

Conditions: Metastatic Cancer;   Unspecified Adult Solid Tumor
Interventions: Drug: PARP inhibitor BMN-673;   Drug: temozolomide;   Drug: irinotecan hydrochloride;   Other: pharmacological study;   Other: laboratory biomarker analysis
Recruiting A Phase II Multicenter, Randomized, Placebo Controlled, Double Blinded Clinical Study of KD018 as a Modulator of Irinotecan Chemotherapy in Patients With Metastatic Colorectal Cancer

Condition: Colorectal Neoplasms
Interventions: Drug: KD018;   Drug: Irinotecan;   Drug: Placebo
Recruiting The Efficacy of the 7 Days Tailored Therapy as 2nd Rescue Therapy for Eradication of H. Pylori Infection

Condition: Helicobacter Infection
Interventions: Procedure: H. pylori culture and antimicrobial susceptibility testing;   Drug: 14 days empirical bismuth quadruple therapy (Proton pump inhibitor);   Drug: Metronidazole;   Drug: Tetracycline;   Drug: tripotassium dicitrate bismuthate;   Drug: 7 days tailored therapy Proton Pump Inhibitor;   Drug: Moxifloxacin;   Drug: Amoxicillin
Recruiting G1T28 (CDK 4/6 Inhibitor) in Combination With Etoposide and Carboplatin in Extensive Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)

Condition: Small Cell Lung Cancer
Interventions: Drug: G1T28 + carboplatin/ etoposide;   Drug: Placebo + carboplatin/ etoposide
Recruiting Trial of Topotecan With VX-970, an ATR Kinase Inhibitor, in Small Cell Lung Cancer

Conditions: Carcinoma, Non-Small -Cell Lung;   Ovarian Neoplasms;   Small Cell Lung Carcinoma;   Uterine Cervical Neoplasms;   Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine
Interventions: Drug: Topotecan;   Drug: VX-970
Recruiting Prospective Analysis of UGT1A1 Promoter Polymorphism for Irinotecan Dose Escalation in Metastatic Colorectal Cancer Patients Treated With Bevacizumab Combined With FOLFIRI as the First-line Setting

Condition: Metastatic Colorectal Cancer
Interventions: Genetic: UGT1A1 genotyping (6,6);   Genetic: UGTIA1 genotyping (6,7);   Genetic: UGTIA1 genotyping (7,7);   Genetic: UGT1A1 non-genotyping;   Drug: bevacizumab (Avastin);   Drug: irinotecan;   Drug: Leucovorin;   Drug: 5-FU
Recruiting A Study of the Bruton’s Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor, PCI-32765 (Ibrutinib), in Combination With Rituximab, Cyclophosphamide, Doxorubicin, Vincristine, and Prednisone in Patients With Newly Diagnosed Non-Germinal Center B-Cell Subtype of Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma

Condition: Lymphoma
Interventions: Drug: Ibrutinib;   Drug: Placebo;   Drug: Rituximab;   Drug: Cyclophosphamide;   Drug: Doxorubicin;   Drug: Vincristine;   Drug: Prednisone (or equivalent)
Recruiting Irinotecan Combination Chemotherapy for Refractory or Relapsed Brain Tumor in Children and Adolescents

Condition: Brain Tumor
Intervention: Drug: Irinotecan combination chemotherapy
Recruiting A Study To Evaluate PF-04449913 With Chemotherapy In Patients With Acute Myeloid Leukemia or Myelodysplastic Syndrome

Condition: Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Interventions: Drug: PF-04449913;   Drug: Low dose ARA-C (LDAC);   Drug: Decitabine;   Drug: Daunorubicin;   Drug: Cytarabine
Recruiting Veliparib and Pegylated Liposomal Doxorubicin Hydrochloride in Treating Patients With Recurrent Ovarian Cancer, Fallopian Tube Cancer, or Primary Peritoneal Cancer or Metastatic Breast Cancer

Conditions: Estrogen Receptor Negative;   HER2/Neu Negative;   Male Breast Carcinoma;   Progesterone Receptor Negative;   Recurrent Breast Carcinoma;   Recurrent Fallopian Tube Carcinoma;   Recurrent Ovarian Carcinoma;   Recurrent Primary Peritoneal Carcinoma;   Stage IV Breast Cancer;   Triple-Negative Breast Carcinoma
Interventions: Other: Laboratory Biomarker Analysis;   Drug: Pegylated Liposomal Doxorubicin Hydrochloride;   Other: Pharmacological Study;   Drug: Veliparib
Recruiting A Study To Evaluate Ara-C and Idarubicin in Combination With the Selective Inhibitor Of Nuclear Export (SINE) Selinexor (KPT-330) in Patients With Relapsed Or Refractory AML

Condition: Acute Myeloid Leukemia (Relapsed/Refractory)
Interventions: Drug: Selinexor;   Drug: Idarubcin;   Drug: Cytarabine

Read Full Post »

Curation of Recently Halted Oncology Trials Due to Serious Adverse Events – 2015

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

The following is reports of oncology clinical trials in 2015 which have been halted for Serious Adverse Events (SAE), in most instances of an idiopathic nature. For comparison I have listed (as of this writing) the oncology drug approvals (8) for 2015. (from

Oncology Drugs Approved in 2015

Farydak (panobinostat); Novartis; For the treatment of multiple myeloma, Approved February 2015

Ibrance (palbociclib); Pfizer; For the treatment of ER-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer, Approved February 2015

Lenvima (lenvatinib); Eisai; For the treatment of thyroid cancer, Approved February 2015

Lonsurf (trifluridine and tipiracil); Taiho Oncology; For the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer , Approved September 2015

Odomzo (sonidegib); Novartis; For the treatment of locally advanced basal cell carcinoma, July 2015

Opdivo (nivolumab); Bristol-Myers Squibb; For the treatment of metastatic squamous non-small cell lung cancer, Approved March 2015

Unituxin (dinutuximab); United Therapeutics; For the treatment of pediatrics with high-risk neuroblastoma, Approved March 2015

Varubi (rolapitant); Tesaro; For the prevention of delayed nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, Approved September 2015

Death Forces FDA to Place Clinical Hold on Advaxis (ADXS) Cancer Drug

from Biospace News

October 7, 2015
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

PRINCETON, N.J. – Following the death of a patient, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) placed a hold on Advaxis (ADXS)’s experimental cancer treatment axalimogene filolisbac, which is currently in mid-stage trials.

In a statement issued this morning, Advaxis maintains the patient’s death was a result of the severity of her cancer and not due to the company’s experimental cancer treatment. It is seeking proof from the FDA that the drug was not a factor in the death. Still, the hold on the experimental cancer drug will cause the company to halt four clinical trials, Advaxis said. Other clinical trials, including those with the experimental ADXS-PSA and ADXS-HER2, are not affected by this hold. The company said it will continue to actively enroll and dose patients.

The FDA placed a hold on the drug on Oct. 2 after the company submitted a safety report to the regulatory agency that week. The drug is being developed to treat patients with persistent or recurrent metastatic (squamous or non-squamous cell) carcinoma of the cervix (PRmCC) who have progressed on at least one prior line of systemic therapy. Phase I trials released at the end of September showed treatment with axalimogene filolisbac resulted in a 38.5 percent 12-month overall survival rate in 26 patients. Patients typically fighting PRmCC who have failed at least one line of therapy have a typical survival rate of four to seven months.

Read full story here

FDA Halts Trial of Halozyme’s PEGPH20 for Pancreatic Cancer

Apr 9, 2014 Alex Philippidis

Halozyme Therapeutics acknowledged today that the FDA placed a formal clinical hold on its troubled Study 202 assessing its experimental drug PEGPH20 in patients with pancreatic cancer—less than a week after the company temporarily halted enrolling and dosing patients in the ongoing Phase II trial.

The agency told Halozyme it placed the clinical hold following the company’s pause in study activity. The trial’s independent data monitoring committee is evaluating data from the trial to learn why patients treated with PEGPH20 as well as nab-paclitaxel and gemcitabine saw a higher rate of blood clots and other thromboembolic events compared with patients treated with nab-paclitaxel and gemcitabine alone.

“We will be providing this information to the data monitoring committee and the FDA in parallel so they can complete their respective assessments,” Helen Torley, M.B. Ch.B., M.R.C.P., Halozyme’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

“Pancreatic cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of any cancer. We remain committed to evaluating PEGPH20 as a possible therapy to address this devastating disease,” Dr. Torley added.

As with Halozyme’s statement last week, the company’s latest remarks did not indicate when Halozyme expects to resume enrolling and dosing patients in Study 202, or how many patients had been enrolled and dosed when the temporary halt occurred.

The trial was envisioned as having 124 subjects, divided evenly between a treatment arm of PEGPH20 and nab-paclitaxel, and a gemcitabine arm, preceded by eight subject “run-in” phase assessing safety and tolerability, according to Study 202’s page on (NCT01839487), last updated on January 27.

The study is one of two Phase II trials for PEGPH20; the other, SWOG, also aims to assess the drug for pancreatic cancer.

PEGPH20 is an investigational PEGylated form of Halozyme’s FDA-approved recombinant human hyaluronidase rHuPH20 (marketed as Hylenex®), designed to dramatically increases the half-life of the compound in the blood and allow for intravenous administration.

The temporary halt for Study 202 came two months after Halozyme publicly cited “potential acceleration of the PEGPH20 program” among several R&D programs for which it raised funds through a public offering of common stock that closed in February and generated approximately $107.8 million in net proceeds.

Read more at GenNEWS

FDA orders CytRx to halt patient enrollment after death of a cancer patient

CytRx ($CYTR) has run into an unexpected roadblock with its cancer drug conjugate aldoxorubicin, slamming the brakes on new patient recruitment in all their clinical trials after the FDA dropped a partial clinical hold on the program. According to the biotech the hold was forced by the death of a patient who was given the drug through a compassionate use program.

LA-based CytRx execs say that patients already enrolled in the studies will continue to receive the therapy as investigators added new safety measures, retooling trial protocols to include an “appropriate inclusion/exclusion criteria, an additional patient screening assessment and an evaluation of serum electrolytes prior to aldoxorubicin administration.” The patient who died, they added, had not qualified for any of its studies.

As it stands now, the biotech doesn’t know exactly how long the partial hold will last, but their announcement sought to calm jumpy investors, saying they expected to resolve the FDA’s demands “expeditiously” and can stick to their current timelines. CytRx says it expects to report preliminary results from their mid-stage study of Kaposi’s sarcoma in the second quarter of 2015 and preliminary results from the ongoing Phase II clinical trial of aldoxorubicin in glioblastoma multiforme in the first half of 2015. The company added that it is committed to completing enrollment in their Phase III trial by the end of next year.

hat reassurance appears to have helped with investors, who seemed to count this as more of a temporary setback than a catastrophe. Shares for CytRx were down about 9% in mid-morning trading.

Aldoxorubicin uses a linker molecule to attach to albumin in the blood and concentrate in tumors, where the acidic environment releases the chemotherapy doxorubicin in doses up to four times higher than what’s used now. Late last year their stock soared after their drug scored promising results for progression-free survival in a Phase IIb trial.

This case illustrates one reason why biotechs often quietly squirm under the pressure of compassionate use programs. They can be expensive to operate, time-consuming and raise fresh concerns when a patient dies or experiences a setback. On the other hand, if regulators take action like this following the death of an advanced stage cancer patient, there may have been something about the case that triggered broader concerns for the entire patient population

Clot risk in Lilly lung-cancer drug raises FDA concerns

July 7, 2015

Eli Lilly and Co.’s experimental lung cancer drug has raised concerns with U.S. regulators that it may increase patients’ risk of suffering potentially deadly blood clots.

The drug, known as necitumumab, improved patients’ overall chances of survival, yet people taking the medicine also experienced more risk, Food and Drug Administration staff said in a report Tuesday. Indianapolis-based Lilly is seeking to sell the medicine to treat a subset of the most common type of lung cancer.

FDA advisers will meet Thursday to discuss the risks and benefits of necitumumab for patients with advanced squamous non-small cell lung cancer, in combination with chemotherapy. The FDA is expected to decide if Lilly can sell the drug by the end of the year.

While the safety of necitumumab reflects that of similar drugs, the increased danger of clotting “in this already high risk population is of concern,” FDA staff wrote.

One study showed that out of 538 patients taking necitumumab and chemotherapy, 9 percent experienced a serious clot, compared with 5 percent of 541 patients given only chemotherapy, according to the staff report.

Squamous lung cancer accounts for 25 percent to 30 percent of all lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Patients in a clinical trial who took necitumumab lived a median of 11.5 months, 1.6 months longer than those who got only chemotherapy, the FDA staff report said.

Opdivo Side Effects Center (as seen on (NOTE:TRIAL NOT HALTED)

Last reviewed on RxList 10/05/2015

Opdivo (nivolumab) is a human monoclonal antibody used to treat patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma and disease progression following ipilimumab and, if BRAF V600 mutation positive, a BRAF inhibitor; and to treat metastatic squamous non-small cell lung cancer with progression on or after platinum-based chemotherapy. Common side effects of Opdivo include fatigue, rash, itching, cough, upper respiratory tract infection, swelling of the extremities, shortness of breath, muscle pain, decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, weakness, swelling, fever, abdominal pain, chest pain, joint pain, and weight loss.

Opdivo FDA Prescribing Information: Side Effects
(Adverse Reactions)

Clinical Trials Experience

Because clinical trials are conducted under widely varying conditions, adverse reaction rates observed in the clinical trials of a drug cannot be directly compared to rates in the clinical trials of another drug and may not reflect the rates observed in clinical practice.

The data described in the WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS section and below reflect exposure to OPDIVO in Trial 1, a randomized trial in patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma and in Trial 3, a single-arm trial in patients with metastatic squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Clinically significant adverse reactions were evaluated in a total of 691 patients enrolled in Trials 1, 3, or an additional dose finding study (n=306) administering OPDIVO at doses of 0.1 to 10 mg/kg every 2 weeks [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Unresectable or Metastatic Melanoma

The safety of OPDIVO was evaluated in Trial 1, a randomized, open-label trial in which 370 patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma received OPDIVO 3 mg/kg every 2 weeks (n=268) or investigator’s choice of chemotherapy (n=102), either dacarbazine 1000 mg/m² every 3 weeks or the combination of carboplatin AUC 6 every 3 weeks plus paclitaxel 175 mg/m² every 3 weeks [see Clinical Studies]. The median duration of exposure was 5.3 months (range: 1 day to 13.8+ months) with a median of eight doses (range: 1 to 31) in OPDIVO-treated patients and was 2 months (range: 1 day to 9.6+ months) in chemotherapy treated patients. In this ongoing trial, 24% of patients received OPDIVO for greater than 6 months and 3% of patients received OPDIVO for greater than 1 year.

In Trial 1, patients had documented disease progression following treatment with ipilimumab and, if BRAF V600 mutation positive, a BRAF inhibitor. The trial excluded patients with autoimmune disease, prior ipilimumab-related Grade 4 adverse reactions (except for endocrinopathies) or Grade 3 ipilimumab-related adverse reactions that had not resolved or were inadequately controlled within 12 weeks of the initiating event, patients with a condition requiring chronic systemic treatment with corticosteroids ( > 10 mg daily prednisone equivalent) or other immunosuppressive medications, a positive test for hepatitis B or C, and a history of HIV.

The study population characteristics in the OPDIVO group and the chemotherapy group were similar: 66% male, median age 59.5 years, 98% white, baseline ECOG performance status 0 (59%) or 1 (41%), 74% with M1c stage disease, 73% with cutaneous melanoma, 11% with mucosal melanoma, 73% received two or more prior therapies for advanced or metastatic disease, and 18% had brain metastasis. There were more patients in the OPDIVO group with elevated LDH at baseline (51% vs. 38%).

OPDIVO was discontinued for adverse reactions in 9% of patients. Twenty-six percent of patients receiving OPDIVO had a drug delay for an adverse reaction. Serious adverse reactions occurred in 41% of patients receiving OPDIVO. Grade 3 and 4 adverse reactions occurred in 42% of patients receiving OPDIVO. The most frequent Grade 3 and 4 adverse reactions reported in 2% to less than 5% of patients receiving OPDIVO were abdominal pain, hyponatremia, increased aspartate aminotransferase, and increased lipase.

FDA Approves Eisai’s LENVIMA™ (lenvatinib) for the Treatment of Patients with Locally Recurrent or Metastatic, Progressive, Radioactive Iodine-Refractory Differentiated Thyroid Cancer

– Press release from Eisai (NOTE: TRIAL NOT HALTED)

Feb 13, 2015

WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J., Feb. 13, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Eisai Inc. announced today that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the company’s receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor LENVIMA™ (lenvatinib) for the treatment of locally recurrent or metastatic, progressive, radioactive iodine-refractory differentiated thyroid cancer (RAI-R DTC). LENVIMA was approved following a priority review by the FDA, which is designated for drugs the FDA believes have the potential to provide a significant improvement in the treatment of a serious condition. LENVIMA demonstrated a statistically significant progression-free survival (PFS) prolongation and response rate in patients with progressive, differentiated thyroid cancer who had become refractory to radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy.

In the clinical trial, adverse events led to dose reductions in 68% of patients who received LENVIMA and 5% of patients who received placebo. Some patients will need to discontinue treatment for serious adverse reactions. In the trial, 18% of patients treated with LENVIMA and 5% who received placebo discontinued treatment. The most common adverse reactions (at least 10%) that resulted in dose reductions of LENVIMA were hypertension (13%), proteinuria (11%), decreased appetite (10%), and diarrhea (10%).

AstraZeneca halts a pair of lung cancer trials over a safety scare

From October 9, 2015 | By of FierceBiotech

“AstraZeneca ($AZN) is pressing pause on trials combining two of its most important pipeline cancer treatments after tracking reports of lung disease, halting enrollment as it gathers more information.

The company is testing a combination of AZD9291 and durvalumab, formerly MEDI4736, in two studies involving patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Late last month, AstraZeneca hit the brakes on enrollment in both trials due to an increase in reports of interstitial lung disease, which can lead to dangerous scarring and impaired pulmonary function. The pauses are temporary, the company stressed in an emailed statement, and patients already enrolled in the study will be given new consent forms to ensure they understand the risks before choosing whether keep getting treatment.”

Other posts on this site on Cytotoxicity and Cancer include

Novel Approaches to Cancer Therapy [11.1]

Misfolded Proteins – from Little Villains to Little Helpers… Against Cancer

Multiple Lung Cancer Genomic Projects Suggest New Targets, Research Directions for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

A Synthesis of the Beauty and Complexity of How We View Cancer

Good and Bad News Reported for Ovarian Cancer Therapy

Read Full Post »

Steroids, Inflammation, and CAR-T Therapy [6.3.8]


Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

Corticosteroids have been used as anticancer agents since the 1940s, with activity reported in a wide variety of solid tumors, including breast and prostate cancer, and the lymphoid hematologic malignancies. They are commonly found in regimens for acute lymphocytic leukemia, Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, myeloma, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.


A great review on the mechanism of action of prednisone’s antitumoral activity is seen in

Corticosteroids in the Treatment of Neoplasms Lorraine I. McKay, PhD and John A. Cidlowski, PhD. in Holland-Frei Cancer Medicine. 6th edition.


It was first discovered that cortisone caused tumor regression in a transplantable mouse lymphosarcoma,81 a finding soon extended to a wide variety of murine lymphatic tumors. The effects of corticosteroids were also evaluated on many nonendocrine and nonlymphoid transplantable rodent tumors. Pharmacologic doses of steroid inhibited growth of various tumor systems.82 Tissue culture studies confirmed that lymphoid cells were the most sensitive to glucocorticoids, and responded to treatment with decreases in DNA, ribonucleic acid (RNA), and protein synthesis.83 Studies of proliferating human leukemic lymphoblasts supported the hypothesis that glucocorticoids have preferential lymphocytolytic effects. The mechanism of action was initially thought to be caused by impaired energy use via decreased glucose transport and/or phosphorylation; it was later discovered that glucocorticoids induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in certain lymphoid cell populations.84,85



–For review on corticosteroids in cancer therapy see more at:

However, as Dana Farber’s Dr. George Canellos, M.D. ponders in Can MOPP be replaced in the treatment of advanced Hodgkin’s disease? Semin Oncol. Canellos GP1. 1990 Feb;17(1 Suppl 2):2-6., many dose-limiting toxicities occur with MOPP (mechlorethamine, vincristine, procarbazine, prednisone) therapy used in advanced Hodgkin’s disease.  Although, at the time, he generally was looking to establish combination therapies with less side effect, the advent of more personalized therapies as well as immunotherapies may indeed replace the older regimens for B-cell malignancies and Hodgkin’s disease, and their panels of toxicities.

Short-term side effects of prednisone ( prednisone description with side effects) as with all glucocorticoids, include high blood glucose levels (especially in patients with diabetes mellitus or on other medications that increase blood glucose, such as tacrolimus) and mineralocorticoid effects such as fluid retention.[10] The mineralocorticoid effects of prednisone are minor, which is why it is not used in the management of adrenal insufficiency, unless a more potent mineralocorticoid is administered concomitantly.

Long-term side effects include Cushing’s syndrome, steroid dementia syndrome, truncal weight gain, osteoporosis, glaucoma and cataracts, type II diabetes mellitus, and depression upon dose reduction or cessation.

Therefore the oncology world has been moving toward therapies which are more selective with less dose-limiting toxicities (e.g. Rituximab), and are looking to CAR-T therapies as a possible replacement for standard chemotherapeutic regimens. However, as with prednisone, there have been serious adverse events in some CAR-T clinical trials. Luckily clinicians, as discussed below, have found supportive therapies to alleviate the most severe side effects to CAR-T.

This section will be refer to supportive therapies as those adjuvant therapy given to alleviate patient discomfort, reduce toxicities and adverse event, or support patient well-being during their course of chemotherapy, not adjuvant therapy to enhance antitumoral effect.

For more background information of CAR-T therapies and related issues please see my previous post

NIH Considers Guidelines for CAR-T therapy: Report from Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee

The following is a brief re-post of some of the important points for reference to this new posting.

1. Evolution of Chimeric Antigen Receptors

Early evidence had suggested that adoptive transfer of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, after depletion of circulating lymphocytes, could result in a clinical response in some tumor patients however developments showed autologous T-cells (obtained from same patient) could be engineered to express tumor-associated antigens (TAA) and replace the TILS in the clinical setting.

A brief history of construction of 2nd and 3rd generation CAR-T cells given by


Differences between  second- and third-generation chimeric antigen receptor T cells. (Adapted by permission from the American Association for Cancer Research: Lee, DW et al. The Future Is Now: Chimeric Antigen Receptors as New Targeted Therapies for Childhood Cancer. Clin Cancer Res; 2012;18(10); 2780–90. doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-11-1920)

Constructing a CAR T Cell (from

The first efforts to engineer T cells to be used as a cancer treatment began in the early 1990s. Since then, researchers have learned how to produce T cells that express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) that recognize specific targets on cancer cells.

The T cells are genetically modified to produce these receptors. To do this, researchers use viral vectors that are stripped of their ability to cause illness but that retain the capacity to integrate into cells’ DNA to deliver the genetic material needed to produce the T-cell receptors.

The second- and third-generation CARs typically consist of a piece of monoclonal antibody, called a single-chain variable fragment (scFv), that resides on the outside of the T-cell membrane and is linked to stimulatory molecules (Co-stim 1 and Co-stim 2) inside the T cell. The scFv portion guides the cell to its target antigen. Once the T cell binds to its target antigen, the stimulatory molecules provide the necessary signals for the T cell to become fully active. In this fully active state, the T cells can more effectively proliferate and attack cancer cells.

2. Consideration for Design of Trials and Mitigating Toxicities

  • Early Toxic effectsCytokine Release Syndrome– The effectiveness of CART therapy has been manifested by release of high levels of cytokines resulting in fever and inflammatory sequelae. One such cytokine, interleukin 6, has been attributed to this side effect and investigators have successfully used an IL6 receptor antagonist, tocilizumab (Acterma™), to alleviate symptoms of cytokine release syndrome (see review Adoptive T-cell therapy: adverse events and safety switches by Siok-Keen Tey).
  • Early Toxic effects – Over-activation of CAR T-cells; mitigation by dose escalation strategy (as authors in reference [3] proposed). Most trials give billions of genetically modified cells to a patient.
  • Late Toxic Effectslong-term depletion of B-cells . For example CART directing against CD19 or CD20 on B cells may deplete the normal population of CD19 or CD20 B-cells over time; possibly managed by IgG supplementation


  1. Ertl HC, Zaia J, Rosenberg SA, June CH, Dotti G, Kahn J, Cooper LJ, Corrigan-Curay J, Strome SE: Considerations for the clinical application of chimeric antigen receptor T cells: observations from a recombinant DNA Advisory Committee Symposium held June 15, 2010. Cancer research 2011, 71(9):3175-3181.
  2. Morgan RA, Yang JC, Kitano M, Dudley ME, Laurencot CM, Rosenberg SA: Case report of a serious adverse event following the administration of T cells transduced with a chimeric antigen receptor recognizing ERBB2. Molecular therapy : the journal of the American Society of Gene Therapy 2010, 18(4):843-851.
  3. Kandalaft LE, Powell DJ, Jr., Coukos G: A phase I clinical trial of adoptive transfer of folate receptor-alpha redirected autologous T cells for recurrent ovarian cancer. Journal of translational medicine 2012, 10:157.


3. Case Reports of Adverse Events and Their Amelioration During CAR-T Therapy

CAR-T Therapy have Had reports of Serious Adverse Events

From FierceBiotech UPDATED: Two deaths force MSK to hit the brakes on engineered T cell cancer study

April 6, 2014 | By John Carroll

Safety concerns forced investigators at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to suspend patient recruitment for an early-stage study of a closely watched approach to reengineering the immune system to fight cancer. Several days ago MSK updated a site on to note that it was halting recruitment for a small study using T cells reengineered with chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) against CD19-positive B cells for aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma, triggering concerns about the potential fallout at Juno Therapeutics, the biotech formed to commercialize the effort. And Sunday evening representatives for MSK revealed at the meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in San Diego that the deaths of two patients spurred investigators to rethink the trial protocol on recruitment, revamping the patient profile to account for the threat of comorbidities while adjusting the dose “based on the extent of disease at the time of treatment.”

For more on this story please see


Keynote presentation by Carl H. June, recipient of The Richard V. Smalley MD 2013 Award


As reported in 2013 in Highlights and summary of the 28th annual meeting of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer by Paolo A Ascierto1, David H Munn2, Anna K Palucka34 and Paul M Sondel in Journal of ImmunoTherapy of Cancer

Since 2005, SITC honors a luminary in the field who has significantly contributed to the advancement of cancer immunotherapy research by presenting the annual Richard V. Smalley MD Memorial Award, which is associated with the Smalley keynote lecture at the Annual SITC meeting. The awardee this year Carl H. June of the University of Pennsylvania, has led innovative translational research for over 25 years, with the most recent focus being the development of the Chimeric Antigen Receptor modified T-cell (CART) approach. Carl June summarized how the past 15 years of progress have expanded upon the original concept presented by Zelig Eshhar [4], in which variable regions of tumor-reactive monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) (VH and VL) are linked to transmembrane and signaling domains of T cell activating molecules to create membrane based receptors with specificity for the tumor antigen recognized by the original mAb [4]. These receptors can be transfected into T cells, for example with lentiviruses. Pre-clinical work demonstrated how CD3-ζ and 41BB signaling components enhanced proliferation and survival of T cells in hypoxic conditions. The initial clinical work has been done with CART reactive to CD-19 on malignant B cells, with progress particularly in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in adults and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in children [5,6]. As of the SITC meeting, CarlJune’s team had treated 35 patients with CLL and 20 with ALL. Of the 20 with ALL, ½ had relapsed after allogeneic BMT. Of these 20 children, 17 were in complete remission, and with persistent B cell aplasia; documenting the persistent effects of the CART cells. Toxicities included the persistent B cell aplasia and profound tumor lysis and cytokine storm, seen 1–2 weeks into the treatment for ALL. This cytokine storm has been ameliorated by using anti-IL6 mAb. The B cell aplasia, while undesired, is acceptable, as patients can receive passive replacement of IgG, thus making their B cells “expendable”. These CART cells can traffic into the CNS. In ALL patients, it appears that each individual CART cell (or its progeny) can destroy 1000 tumor cells. Ongoing efforts in CarlJune’s program, and at other centers, are now moving into analyses of CART reactive with other tumor targets, by using mAbs that recognize antigens expressed on other tumors. Among these are EGFR on glioblastoma, PSMA on prostate cancer, mesothelin on ovarian cancer, HER2 on breast (and other) cancers, and several other targets. Because some of these targets are also expressed on normal tissues that are “not expendable”, novel approaches are being developed to decrease the potency or longevity of the CART effect, to decrease potential toxicity. This includes generating “short lived” CART cells by inducing CAR expression with short-lived RNA, rather than transfecting with a DNA construct that remains permanently.

In T-Cell Immunotherapy: Looking Forward Molecular Therapy (2014); 22 9, 1564–1574. doi:10.1038/mt.2014.148 many of the leading CAR-T clinicians and investigators reported on some of the adverse events related o CAR-T therapy including

  • 40 severe adverse events (SAE) had been reported from 2010 to 2013.
  • B-cell aplasia
  • Systemic inflammatory release syndrome (CRS) {the most sever toxicity seen}
  • Tumor lysis syndrome
  • CNS toxicity
  • Macrophage activation syndrome

According to the investigators the systemic inflammatory release syndrome (CRS) is the most severe toxicity seen

The most commonly reported adverse event is CRS,49 with about three-quarters of the patients with CRS requiring admission to an intensive care unit. In the case of CAR therapy, the onset of CRS is related to the particular signaling domain in the CAR, with early-onset CRS in the first several days after infusion related to CARs that encode a CD28 signaling domain.4,16 By contrast, CARs encoding a 4-1BB signaling domain tend to have delayed-onset CRS (range, 7 to 50 days) after CAR T-cell infusion.6 CRS has also been reported after the infusion of TCR-modified T cells, with onset typically five to seven days after infusion. The development of CRS is often, but not invariably, associated with clinically beneficial tumor regression. Several cytokines have been reported to be elevated in the serum—most commonly, interferon (IFN)-γ, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, and interleukin (IL)-6. Management of CRS has included supportive care, corticosteroids, etanercept, tocilizumab, and alemtuzumab. The role of suicide genes in the management of CRS remains unknown.50

This supportive therapy have now been included in all protocols now and sites are engaged in developing pharmacovigilance protocol development for CAR-T therapy.


Other posts on this site on Immunotherapy and Cancer include

Combined anti-CTLA4 and anti-PD1 immunotherapy shows promising results against advanced melanoma

Molecular Profiling in Cancer Immunotherapy: Debraj GuhaThakurta, PhD

Pancreatic Cancer: Genetics, Genomics and Immunotherapy

$20 million Novartis deal with ‘University of Pennsylvania’ to develop Ultra-Personalized Cancer Immunotherapy

Upcoming Meetings on Cancer Immunogenetics

Tang Prize for 2014: Immunity and Cancer

ipilimumab, a Drug that blocks CTLA-4 Freeing T cells to Attack Tumors @DM Anderson Cancer Center

Juno’s approach eradicated cancer cells in 10 of 12 leukemia patients, indicating potential to transform the standard of care in oncology

Report on Cancer Immunotherapy Market & Clinical Pipeline Insight

New Immunotherapy Could Fight a Range of Cancers


Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »