In the United States, around 76,250 new cases of melanoma and 9,180 melanoma-related deaths are predicted for 2012. With the therapeutic options currently available, metastatic melanoma patients face the bleak prospect of at best, 10 month's survival and a one-in-ten chance of surviving for 10 years. Surgery and radiation therapy are the mainstay of treatment. Dacarbazine-based chemotherapy remains after 30 years, for want of anything better, to be the main systemic therapy. As currently used, immunotherapy affords little improvement. High dose IL-2 (Proleukin) and ipilimumab (Yervoy) can increase survival, but only in a few patients, and at the risk of severe toxicity. Mutations in the BRAF oncogene occur in 80% of melanomas and activate the B-Raf serine/threonine kinase to drive uncontrolled cell growth. The new, targeted agent, vemurafenib (PLX4032), inhibits B-Raf activated by the V600E mutation occurring in 85% of BRAF mutations in melanoma. High response rates, benign and manageable toxicities, and the availability of a companion diagnostic for the BRAFV600E mutation raised the prospect of a cure in metastatic melanoma. This hope has been thwarted by the development of drug resistance and the recurrence of malignant disease only months after regression in response to PLX4032. The period of remission produced by PLX4032 provides a window of opportunity for immunotherapeutic approaches that might activate tumor immunity to suppress the recurrence of PLX4032-resistant melanoma. Arisaph has identified a small molecule inhibitor of the prolyl peptidase family, ARI-4175, that can activate tumor immunity to kill tumors via the induction of immunoregulatory cytokines and chemokines. Arisaph has selected ARI-417 as a second-generation drug candidate with greater activity and less toxicity than the related compound, PT-100 (talabostat). ARI-4175 is remarkably effective in producing immune rejection of tumors in mice. Therefore, if given during the period of remission produced by PLX4032, ARI-4175 might activate an immune response that can suppress reemergence of disease. This hypothesis will be tested with the Specific Aim of demonstrating that ARI-4175 can inhibit progression of tumors after the initial response to PLX4032 in a model of BRAFV600E-positive melanoma established by Dr. Philip Hinds (Tufts Medical Center). In order to be a viable drug candidate, ARI-4175 must produce a significantly greater antitumor effect than PLX4032 alone by the activation of tumor immunity after PLX4032 treatment in BRAFV600E-positive melanoma in mice. If ARI-4175 meets the test of feasibility in STTR Phase I, IND-enabling studies and initiation of clinical trials to investigae safety and efficacy will be proposed for Phase II.

Public Health Relevance

Metastatic melanoma is a lethal skin cancer with response rates to chemotherapy of only 5-20%, and although immunotherapy (Proleukin and Yervoy) provides an alternative option that can produce durable responses and long-term survival, as currently used, immunotherapy only provides a benefit in a small proportion of patients. A newer targeted agent, vemurafenib (PLX4032), is a B-Raf kinase inhibitor that can produce remarkable responses in melanoma harboring the BRAFV600E mutation, but following the initial response, drug resistance allows the recurrence of aggressive malignant disease after only a few months. This proposal will test the feasibility of using a small molecule immunotherapeutic agent to activate a tumor-specific immune response that can suppress the recurrence of disease after the initial regression of melanoma lesions in response to PLX4032.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Grants - Phase I (R41)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-OTC-T (10))
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Weber, Patricia A
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Arisaph Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
United States
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