Locus furthers cancer focus

Locus inks cancer research deals with two academic centers

Amy Swinderman
BLUE BELL, Pa.—Locus Pharmaceuticals Inc., a privately held computational drug design company, announced in June that it entered two separate cancer research collaborations with The Cancer Therapy Research Center (CTRC) at the University of Texas Health Center, San Antonio, and with the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

According to agreements, the research centers will work to advance Locus' p38 inhibitor portfolio of drug development candidates, a pipeline of novel medicines that are in late pre-clinical development for the treatment of cancers associated with angiogenesis and inflammation. Financial support for the collaborations is still being worked out.

Dr. Jamie Freedman, who was recently named president and CEO of Locus, says the preclinical studies will assist Locus in identifying those patient populations most likely to benefit from its drugs.

"The opportunity for Locus is to learn as much as we can about which cancer types our compounds can be used for clinically, and to make the transition from the lab to the clinic as efficiently and rationally-based as possible," Freedman says.

Locus' p38 portfolio comprises highly selective allosteric inhibitors of p38 alpha and beta isozymes and LP-590, a multikinase inhibitor of p38, Tie-2 and Ret kinases. The research collaborations were set up with CTRC and M.D. Anderson because they have academic leaders in inflammation and cancer and p38 and cancer, Freedman says.

"Both centers have a track record of translating pre clinical research to the clinic for developing new drugs," he says. "The advantages for them are the opportunity to work with novel compounds that will enhance our understanding about the biology of certain cancers associated with inflammation, and to provide new treatment options for patients with these types of diseases."

Locus has worked with CTRC before, as it was one of two participating centers that conducted a Phase I study with Locus' first clinical candidate and lead oncology drug, LP-261. The new collaboration with CTRC will focus on ovarian and inflammatory breast cancers, says Dr. Frank Giles, director of CTRC's Institute for Drug Development.

"Quite simply, Jamie Freedman is one of the best drug developers I have worked with in this industry," Giles says. "CTRC is not interesting in doing any research collaborations unless the targets are promising or the company has some ability to convince us they can create clean drugs. Locus has not only the LP-261 compound, but also a number of drugs behind them which show promise."

In the collaboration with M.D. Anderson, research team leaders at the Morgan Welch Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Program and Cancer Center will work on demonstrating the potential value of LP-590 in the treatment of inflammatory breast cancer.

"Inflammatory breast cancer is a very aggressive type of breast cancer that can be resistant to standard therapies," says Dr. Massimo Cristofanilli, co-director of the Morgan Welch Clinic. "LP-590, in particular, is of great interest to us because of the potential importance of both p38 and Tie-2 in this variant of breast cancer. We hope  this collaboration will bring the possibility to improve treatment for this deadly type of breast cancer." DDN

Amy Swinderman

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