Epigenetics Drug Improves Survival in the Second Deadliest Cancer

24/01/2017 - 2 minutes

New results from 4SC indicate that its epigenetics drug resminostat can make a big difference in the survival of liver cancer patients with poor prognosis.

The German biotech 4SC targets epigenetics to treat deadly forms of cancer. The company has now announced positive Phase II results from its lead candidate resminostat for a patient subgroup with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which is the most common form of liver cancer and the second deadliest after lung cancer.

Run by 4SC’s partner Yakult, from Japan, the trial evaluated the effects of resminostat in combination with Bayer’s Nexavar (sorafenib), which is currently the first-line treatment for liver cancer. The drug combo reduced the risk of death of patients by 40% in patients with higher platelet levels. The company is focusing in this subgroup since it found high platelet counts are usually associated with more aggressive forms of HCC.

4SC is the first to use the platelet count as a selection criterion in advanced HCC and wants to further explore its possibilities in a Phase III trial that could eventually lead to the approval of resminostat.

4sc epigenetics liver cancer hcc

Epigenetics, the code that determines gene activity without altering DNA sequences, is a very attractive area of oncology. In the development of cancer, epigenetic alterations are as important as genetic mutations and can be more easily targeted by drugs. In particular, resminostat inhibits histone deacetylase (HDAC), an enzyme that promotes the deactivation of gene expression.

Given its huge potential, analysts predict that the worldwide epigenetics market will hit €15B ($16B) by 2022, a huge jump from €1.1B ($1.2B) back in 2014. From that amount, oncology is expected to be the largest application, reaching €2.6B ($2.75B).

By targeting one of the deadliest forms of cancer with a candidate for first-line treatments, 4SC could become one of the major players in this particular field. Already in the market, MSD’s Zolinza (vorinostat) and Celgene’s Istodax (romidepsin), which also target HDAC, have proved effective in the treatment other cancer types so far.

Images from petarg, sciencepics/Shutterstock

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