Esmo 2020 – private group claims early but impressive pancreatic win

Caution is always warranted when interpreting data from small, single-arm open-label studies, but a startling 59% response rate in 29 pancreatic cancer patients, stood out at Esmo today. Cend Therapeutics, a private US biotech, claims to have developed Cend-1, a compound that can hijack the body’s transport system and deliver drugs deep into tumours. This peptide, also called iRGD, is said to activate the CendR transport pathway exclusively in tumours; this was tested in pancreatic cancer, with Cend-1 given on top of Abraxane and gemcitabine. No additional toxicities were reported, but the agent appears to have substantially boosted the effectiveness of the chemo combo. For comparison, the trial that won Abraxane approval in this cancer yielded a 23% response rate and overall survival of 8.5 months, significantly longer than the 6.7 months recorded in the gemcitabine control arm. Cend reported median treatment duration of 7.4 months – the trial was stopped early owing to Covid-19 – and it goes without saying that these signal needs to be confirmed in a larger and more rigorous study. But in a cancer that desperately needs new options, these data make Cend Therapeutics one to watch.

Waterfall plot from phase I trial of Cend-1

Dr Andrew Dean and Esmo.

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