The UC San Diego School of Medicine is receiving an $18.29 million grant to fund a clinical trial of a combination drug therapy to fight B-cell cancers, the university has announced.
The grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine was approved Aug. 24.
The new combined drug trial, intended to study both safety and efficacy, is headed by Thomas Kipps, MD, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Medicine and deputy director of research at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, in collaboration with colleagues at the UC San Diego CIRM Alpha Stem Cell Clinic — the cell therapy arm of the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center at UC San Diego Health.
The clincal trial combines an experimental antibody-based drug called cirmtuzumab with ibrutinib. Marketed as Imbruvica, ibrutinib is already approved to treat B-cell cancers, like chronic lymphocytic leukemia and mantle cell lymphoma. Cirmtuzumab is currently in clinical trials for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
“We are very excited about evaluating this combination of targeted therapies in the clinic,” Kipps said. “Although ibrutinib has been approved for treatment of patients with CLL or MCL, it is exceptionally rare for this drug by itself to get rid of all the leukemia cells or cause long-lasting remissions without continuous therapy.
“As a result, patients are recommended to take ibrutinib indefinitely — until they develop intolerance or resistance to this drug,” Kipps continued. “By blocking a survival/growth-stimulating pathway that provides a lifeline to the leukemia cells of patients taking ibrutinib, cirmtuzumab can work together with ibrutinib to potentially kill all the leukemia cells, allowing patients to achieve a complete remission and stop therapy altogether.”
Kipps noted, too, that cirmtuzumab targets cancer stem cells, which behave somewhat like the roots of the disease, resisting many forms of treatment and allowing a malignancy to grow back after apparently successful therapy. By targeting cancer stem cells, Kipps said “cirmtuzumab may improve our capacity to achieve more complete and longer lasting remissions when used in combination with targeted drugs, such as ibrutinib, or other anti-cancer drugs for the treatment of patients with many different types of cancer.”
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine was created in 2004 by California voters with $3 billion in funding support to accelerate stem cell research and treatments. Since 2004, UC San Diego researchers have received at least 96 CIRM awards, totaling more than $182 million.
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: