ABT-199 BH-3 Mimetic Enters Phase Ia Trial For Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

A molecule discovered 20 years ago at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Australia is now entering clinical trials to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

AsianScientist (Aug. 12, 2011) – A scientific discovery made 20 years ago at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) in Melbourne, Australia has led to the development of a potential new anti-cancer agent that is now entering clinical trials to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the most common type of leukemia.

In a worldwide Phase Ia clinical trial coordinated by Cancer Trials Australia, patients with CLL have begun to receive the agent, ABT-199, a so-called BH3-mimetic drug designed to block the function of the Bcl-2 protein.

The original discovery that Bcl-2 extends the life of leukemia cells was made by Profs. David Vaux, Suzanne Cory, and Jerry Adams at WEHI.

Subsequent collaborations with other institute scientists have contributed to the development of a new class of drugs called BH3-mimetics that block Bcl-2 to rapidly remove leukemia cells.

ABT-199 was discovered in the joint research collaboration and designed to selectively inhibit Bcl-2, co-led by Prof. David Huang. The agent has been jointly developed for clinical use by two companies, Abbott and Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.

“The Phase Ia clinical trial is designed to demonstrate the safest dose of ABT-199,” explained Professor Andrew Roberts, head of clinical translation at WEHI.

According to Roberts, the agent will be tested in a small group of patients with CLL who have not responded satisfactorily to other treatments.

“If the safety profile of ABT-199 supports further study,” he added, “ABT-199 could be available for a larger Phase II clinical trial to determine whether it is effective for treating CLL in the next one to two years.”

The head of business development at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Dr. Julian Clark, described the collaboration with Abbott and Genentech as unique.

“The combination of large biotech and pharmaceutical companies with an academic research institute is regarded as the industry benchmark,” he said. “We anticipate that other compounds discovered at the institute will be able to enter clinical trials through similar collaborative efforts.”


Source: The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Grace Liao received a SB degree in chemical-biological engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA.

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