WEST LAFAYETTE - A cancer targeting innovation discovered more than two decades ago by a Purdue University professor of chemistry and his then-graduate research assistant could be closer to benefiting patients with ovarian and lung cancers and other diseases after receiving positive opinions from clinical trials conducted in the U.S. and Europe.
The drug, vintafolide, is the result of research conducted over the past 24 years ago by Philip S. Low, the Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and director of the Purdue Center for Drug Discovery, and Christopher P. Leamon, then his graduate research assistant. Low is chief science officer at Endocyte Inc., a company created to further develop and commercialize Low’s drug innovations, and Leamon is the vice president of research and development of the company.
On Friday (March 21) Endocyte Inc. and its partner Merck & Co. Inc., announced that the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency has issued positive opinions for the Conditional Marketing Authorizations of the cancer drug VYNFINIT® (vintafolide) and companion imaging components, FOLCEPRI® (etarfolatide), and NEOCEPRI® (intravenous (IV) folic acid), for the treatment of adult patients with folate receptor-positive, platinum-resistant, ovarian cancer, in combination with pegylated liposomal doxorubicin (PLD), a standard treatment.
Low and Leamon’s innovation attaches a drug or imaging agent to a modified form of the vitamin folic acid, which acts as a “homing device” to seek out and attach to ovarian cancer cells. Most ovarian cancer cells require large amounts of the vitamin to grow and divide, and special receptors on the cell’s surface grab the vitamin - and whatever is linked to it - and pull it inside. Not all cancer cells express the folate receptor, and a simple test is necessary to determine if a specific patient’s cancer expresses the receptor in large enough quantities for the technique to work, Low said.