A new drug class for multiple myeloma treatment with an enviable safety profile, compelling efficacy data and a novel mechanism of action
Cilcane® (generic name cilengitide) is Iceni™ pharmaceutical’s lead drug candidate. Cilengitide is a cyclic RGD pentapeptide which was originally invented by the research team of Prof Horst Kessler (a member of Iceni’s Expert Advisory Board) when at Munich Technical University in 1995. Original development by Merck Serono for the brain cancer glioblastoma focused on its ability to inhibit the growth of new blood vessels (anti-angiogenesis), which essentially ‘feed’ proliferating cancers. Cilengitide has been involved in over 30 clinical trials to date including extensive Phase III testing. Whilst the drug was remarkably safe and well-tolerated in these trials, efficacy was found to be sub-optimal, and its development by Merck Serono was terminated in 2013 following announcement of key CENTRIC clinical trial results by the-then Global Head of R & D, Dr Annalisa Jenkins (also now part of Iceni’s Expert Advisory Board).
Cilengitide binds to cell surface proteins called alpha integrins which are involved in cell attachment. Integrins are over-expressed in myeloma cancer cells, and recent independently conducted research indicates cilengitide treatment leads to detachment of myeloma cells from bound surfaces and inhibition of their bone destroying activity. Whilst cilengitide does not appear to display cytotoxicity towards myeloma cells when given as a monotherapy, in vivo efficacy studies by Iceni Pharmaceuticals have indicated that cilengitide strongly enhances the activity of proteasome inhibitors, a class of drugs currently used to treat myeloma; in some cases leading to complete tumour eradication (example data below using H929 myeloma model 16 mice per group).