Synta Pharmaceuticals (SNTA) may look like the typical American biotech company: A promising phase III compound, which is, of course, partnered with a pharma giant, two agents in early clinical stages, a list of failed trials, and an alarming cash burn rate. Nonetheless, the story behind the company’s lead product, elesclomol, is shaping up as one of the most interesting events in oncology in recent years. Elesclomol is currently in a registrational phase III trial for metastatic melanoma, a major achievement by itself, however, if successful, this trial will mark two events on a historical scale.
The market of monoclonal antibodies for cancer is one of the fastest growing segments in the pharmaceutical industry, with several blockbuster drugs such as Rituxan and Herceptin. Although over a year has passed since the FDA last approved an antibody for the treatment of cancer, the extensive activity in the field will surely lead to a substantial addition of antibodies in the coming years. Continue reading
Antibodies have been proven as excellent tools for specifically targeting cancer cells, however, the damage they inflict upon cancer cells is minimal, especially when compared with chemotherapy drugs. Continue reading
Metaphorically, antibodies can be described as unarmed guided missiles, which have extraordinary precision and targeting abilities, but once they hit the target, they inflict minimal damage. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be described as artillery, very powerful, but unguided. In order to optimally use the two, the most logical step is arming those unarmed missiles with a variety of explosives. Using the same reasoning, there is a true need to develop anti-cancer therapies which have an antibody-like specificity as well as chemo/radio-therapy-like potency. Doing so enables us to take advantage of the selectivity of antibodies and the potent toxic activity of chemo/radio-therapy, thus creating superior cancer treatments. The antibody binds the target on the tumor, delivers its payload and kills the cell. Arming antibodies with effector molecules like chemotherapy agents and radio-isotopes results in a hybrid agent referred to as an Immunoconjugate. An antibody which is not conjugated to an effector is referred to as “naked” antibody.