HEQ discusses the importance of targeted therapies for advanced diseases with CEO of Diaccurate, Dominique Bridon.
Adopting a personalised approach to medicine and developing novel mechanisms that support the treatment of advanced diseases is paramount for improving patient outcomes. Not only can this enable physicians to better manage a patient’s condition by understanding the complexities of particular diseases, it can support new therapies through the analysis and integration of certain types of data.
Discovering new and effective targeted therapies for serious and incurable diseases within the fields of oncology and immunology is at the forefront of Diaccurate’s work. So far, the French biotech company has established three ‘sole-in-class’ therapies which they believe will revolutionise treatment for serious diseases including triple-negative breast tumours, brain metastases and HIV.
To find out more, HEQ spoke to the company’s CEO, Dominique Bridon.
What are the key challenges associated with the diagnosis and research for serious and incurable diseases, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic?
This is a very critical question, and Diaccurate is right at the heart of it. We are currently developing three sole-in-class drug candidates in oncology and immunology: the first dual targeted therapy that reaches brain metastases is the two-in-one PAM inhibitor DIACC3010, recently acquired from Merck KGaA; the first targeted chemotherapy, a KIF20A inhibitor, DIACC2010; and the first CD4 immunotherapy, the anti-PLA2G1B monoclonal antibody, DIACC1010.
Part of our company’s work involves the development of novel therapeutics for diseases like HIV, and for the past two years, we have been requesting access to HIV plasma from patients in order to continue working on our asset, DIACC1010. With COVID, at times we have been absolutely unable to access any form of samples and that has derailed parts of our trial. Furthermore, many of the specialists who were previously involved in HIV research, are now dedicating their time to COVID.
Another issue we have seen is the geographic disparities in the research around genetic testing for novel cancer therapies. For instance, DIACC3010 was developed in patients prior to the COVID pandemic using extensive and advanced genetic testing. The institution, based in the US, had no research issues as they are one of the world leaders in genetic testing and see over 35,000 patients a year. However, in Europe, it is a different story. It is more difficult to implement this new, personalised medicine that patients with cancer want to see, and with the onset of the pandemic, there are fewer resources, scientists, and institutions available to work on trials as their focus has shifted to COVID-19.
The World Health Organization has predicted that cancer cases will double by 2040. Aside from the fact that we are all living longer, what else would you attribute this rise to?
Lifestyle is certainly one factor which includes stress and the poor management of stress. Another issue relates to diagnostics. The progress around diagnostics has been phenomenal, particularly in early-stage diagnostics where in places like the US, men and women of a certain age are invited for routine check-ups. We know that the best way to have an impact on cancer is to catch it early, before it is metastatic, so these diagnostic tools are very important. However, these preventative measures are not implemented everywhere.
If we look at the ageing population, although people are living longer, they are often susceptible to health problems in older age, so we need to understand how we can safeguard people’s wellbeing as they age. Medicine of course has a huge part to play, but a holistic approach to health and maintaining a positive mindset are also incredibly powerful.
This holistic approach to health is so poorly implemented and education is really lacking. There tends to be a disregard for how emotional factors like stress can impact our wellbeing. Supporting a healthy lifestyle and mental wellbeing should be huge components in disease management before drugs are used as a first port of call.
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women, accounting for around 12% of new cancer cases. Can you explain the challenges associated with triple negative breast cancer and the significance of Diaccurate’s research around the dual PAM inhibitor?
Our dual PAM inhibitor DIACC3010, which we acquired from Merck earlier in 2021, is a very promising sole-in-class, targeted cancer therapy. It is among the few PAM inhibitors to target not only one but two nodes of the PAM pathway, thereby, supporting improved efficiency and it is also able to cross the blood brain barrier. The initial clinical development was run by a principal investigator at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, who had five years of clinical experience with this asset and who recently published the results of the trial in which we saw something very exciting regarding disease stabilisation. The agent was able to block what is referred to as protein synthesis. In addition to possibly blocking proliferation, apoptosis, or any form of mechanism, it seems to block the synthesis of proteins involved in cancer growth. This is a very interesting characteristic because it means even in advanced stages of cancer for instance, where nothing else has worked, we could achieve some form of disease stabilisation. If we are able to detect diseases earlier, we can have an even greater impact. This state of disease stabilisation could possibly be similar to what we might see with non-aggressive cancers that a patient, while knowing they have cancer, can live in relative comfort with the disease for 15 to 20 years because it progresses very slowly. Of course, the demonstration and confirmation of these effects has still to be confirmed in further formal human clinical trials.
With triple negative breast cancer, by the time patients reach this level, it means nothing else has worked. We are confident that with our inhibitor DIACC3010, we can achieve disease stabilisation, something that has not been seen before. This opens up the opportunity for patients to try powerful therapies which can act without being inhibited because we may be able to stall the disease.
Diaccurate is now exploring special unique combination therapies and we have some very interesting leads from our medical advisors and from the original work performed by Merck KGaA, which is now available to us. There is no denying that triple negative breast cancer is a very difficult disease but our mission as a company is to push this disruptive science and develop sole-in-class therapies and innovative technologies to help support those patients most in need.
What more could be done at a policy level to support innovation in cancer treatment and ensure patients are able to access new and advanced treatment options?
There are many elements to consider here. Firstly, we have to recognise that not every country has the same policies in terms of supporting research and approving treatments. Other considerations include pricing and pharma. But I am not a policy maker. I am a scientist. From a scientific perspective, it is already complex enough so when you start considering these other factors relating to geography, pricing, pharma as well as public perception, the advantages or appeal can sometimes seem minimal.
Similarly, treatment for advanced diseases can have a range of side effects that can sometimes be more debilitating than the disease itself, even provoking the onset of other diseases like diabetes that will require additional treatments. It is a very complex issue. Another factor we must consider is personal choice; some people want to rid themselves of the cancer no matter the side effects of treatments, whereas others will say they would prefer to have a dignified death. There is no doubt that treatments have greatly improved in the last 30 years, but there is still a long way to go.