A large proportion of the 100,000 patients diagnosed each year in the United States have a history of high-level sun exposure. The patient profile includes a disproportionate number of young people, customers of artificial tanning beds and individuals working outdoors. Despite important improvements to melanoma treatment, in the US alone melanoma continues to claim approximately 8,000 lives annually. With such young lives involved, this outcome is devastating.
When melanoma is caught early (stage 0), the tumor can typically be removed surgically with excellent results. But a large number of patients receive their melanoma diagnosis at disease level III or IV. At this point the disease may have metastasized far away from the initial tumor, making the malignant cells difficult to both locate and reach. The fact that late-stage melanoma is considered extremely challenging to treat begs for the development of innovative treatments.
Prodrug Supercarriers: Temprian Oncology is proposing to package a prodrug that becomes active where it is needed, in a coat that allows for release of the active material when the tumor feeds on the injected particles. Our Supercarriers are developed to fight metastasized melanoma. The drug combines an active ingredient toxic to melanoma cells with nanoparticles as a delivery mechanism. These Supercarriers release their content within metastatic melanoma tumor cells. The active ingredient is released in parts of the cells where the pH is low. This acid pH is found in organelles where pigment is made, so that the active ingredient is delivered directly to the target. A variant to the prodrug forms an accepted method to bleach the skin. The nanoparticle-based Supercarrier delivery mechanism further helps to minimize side effects.
The methodology is developed at Northwestern University as a cooperation between the Le Poole Laboratory, specialized on pigment cell research, and the Nguyen laboratory with decades of experience in nanoparticle development. A patent is pending to support the technology as it moves to a clinical application
Therapeutic Fit: The proposed drug is developed to have a fit with existing therapies aiming to cure the disease. The field is currently dominated by TKI’s [Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors] and ICI’s [Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors]. TKIs typically remain active for less than a year before a more aggressive tumors emerges, and our Supercarriers are developed to either replace or follow this therapy. The Supercarriers further support a healthy immune response to metastasized tumors, which makes the treatment an excellent candidate to support the efficacy of ICIs.
Geographic Fit: While supercarriers combine the advantages of chemotherapy and immunotherapy, they do not require patient-specific modifications. This immunotherapy treatment is unique in that it can be administered in remote locations, not requiring the presence of advanced technology.