Drug Development

Eli Lilly partners at CRUK tackle the first human study of a new p53-targeted cancer drug

CRUK’s Richard Wilson. Credit: Queens University, Belfast

Cancer Research UK has kicked off an early-stage study of a new Eli Lilly cancer drug that will try to hit the ever-elusive target of solid tumors with high levels of p53 mutations.

Investigators at CRUK will start out with a dose-escalation study of the Cdc7 inhibitor to try and find the right balance between safety and efficacy, and then step it up to look at the effect the drug has on several cancers with high levels of p53 mutations. Researchers will start with metastatic bowel cancer, squamous non-small cell lung cancer and high grade serous ovarian cancer.

This is the first trial involving humans. So far investigators are encouraged by the mouse data they’ve collected. But p53 has also proven to be one of the toughest targets in oncology research, defeating a long lineup of attempts.

That hasn’t stopped others from trying, though. Earlier this year PMV raised a $74 million round for its approach to p53 mutations. Aileron has a p53 focus and the startup Repare Therapeutics is using CRISPR tech in their approach to this high-value target.

Noted CRUK chief investigator Richard Wilson:

“It’s very early days, but this trial will help us to understand whether this drug could help cancer patients and whether it has the potential to stop the growth of many different cancer types, particularly those with loss of p53 function.”

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