A new CAR-T is credited with a ‘surprising’ impact in tiny study of advanced liver cancer — raising hopes on solid tumors

A tiny study has provided the first glimmer of hope that Eureka Therapeutics’ CAR-T therapy may work in solid tumors.

In a proof-of-concept study involving six patients with hepatocellular carcinoma — the most prevalent form of liver cancer — researchers reported that one patient had a complete response, which was maintained at the seven-month checkup. Two others saw their tumors shrink.

These, the biotech emphasizes, are patients who have failed multiple prior treatments.

“The results were extremely surprising,” Chang Liu, a physician at Xi’an Jiaotong University in China and the primary investigator of the study, told Bloomberg. “This is a breakthrough in an area where there was previously no known treatment. To be more dramatic, we can say it’s created a miracle.”

Cheng Liu

Emeryville, CA-based Eureka added that none of the patients experienced cytokine release syndrome or drug-related neurotoxicity — well-known safety concerns that have limited the use of T cell therapies.

Of note, three patients in the study died due to what the company describes as “non-drug-related complications of liver disease.”

The first CAR-Ts on the market from Gilead/Kite and Novartis have demonstrated some amazing results for blood cancers, but solid tumors represent a high hurdle for these new drugs. Clearing it — safely — would open up a major market.

“We are encouraged by the safety profile and the potential efficacy of ET140202 for AFP-positive liver cancer,” said Cheng Liu, Eureka’s president and CEO. “Combining T-cell therapy with a TCR-mimic antibody to target intracellular antigens is a novel approach and can potentially represent a powerful way to treat solid tumors, and in particular, liver cancer, an area of significant unmet medical need.”

The treatment, dubbed ET140202, works by targeting a liver cancer marker called alpha-fetoprotein, or AFP.

In 2019, the company plans to launch a multicenter Phase I trial for ET140202, in the US, where it’s also testing its lead program focused on CD19+ non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
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Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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