Avila Shows Progress in Covalent Cancer Drugs at Prominent ASH Confab

12/12/11Follow @arleneweintraub

Boston-based Avila Therapeutics announced data today from early human trials of its lead cancer drug, AVL-292, which the company is presenting at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting in San Diego. The results support the company’s plans to move the drug into more extensive Phase 2 trials next year, says CEO Katrine Bosley.

Avila specializes in developing “covalent” drugs, which are molecules designed to bind so tightly to disease-causing proteins that they shut down that protein’s activity for a prolonged period of time. AVL-292 specifically inhibits an enzyme called Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (Btk), which has been implicated in so-called B cell cancers, such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia. “Folks have understood the biology of Btk and been interested in it for a long time,” Bosley says. “I think you’ll see a lot of excitement around Btk at ASH.”

Bosley hopes some of that excitement will be generated by Avila’s study. The data showed that five out of six patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia who received AVL-292 remained stable, meaning their disease did not progress. Those patients have stayed on the drug for more than 100 days since the start of the trial. Blood tests showed that at the largest of the two doses tested, AVL-292 inhibited Btk over the long run.

Bosley says one of the greatest challenges in targeting Btk has been to design drugs that could block it without affecting healthy processes in the body. “That’s what was hard—making drugs that were specific … Next Page »

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