ChemoGel - a thermoresponsive, cytotoxic gel for local chemotherapy

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This project is co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Union under Enterprise Ireland's Commercialisation Fund no. CF-2016-0431-P

Chemogel

Overview

Duffy Kelly Labs has developed ChemoGel, a unique, thermoresponsive gel drug delivery platform which enables site specific delivery and sustained release of chemotherapeutics at solid tumour sites. The ChemoGel project is coordinated by Dr Helena Kelly at RCSI. ChemoGels lead clinical indication is pancreatic cancer which has the highest rate of death per incidence of any cancer and has not seen significant improvement in survival outcomes in the last 40 years. Part of the reason it is so difficult to treat is due to the fact that the tissue in the tumour is extremely dense and has a poor blood supply. This makes it very challenging for systemic drugs to enter the tumour in high concentrations reducing the impact of systemic drug delivery. Therefore surgery provides the best chance of survival, however only about 20% of patients are eligible for surgery at time of diagnosis. Upto a further 40% of patients have locally advanced disease, where the tumour has not spread outside the pancreas but is too large for surgical resection. Currently, the best chance of improving overall survival is to increase the % of patients who are eligible for surgery by aiming to reduce tumour burden in patients who are considered unsuitable for surgery due to tumour size.

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Figure 1: Administration of ChemoGel to pancreatic tumour via Endoscopic Ultrasound Fine-needle Injection (EUS-FNI).

Value Proposition

There are currently 338,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer diagnosed annually and the global pancreatic cancer treatment market is expected to reach USD 4.2 billion in 2025. Currently only approx. 15-30% of patients are eligible for surgery at time of diagnosis and these patients have an average 5 year survival of upto 30%. Patients who are not eligible for surgery receive systemic chemotherapy, in conjunction with radiation but these treatment approaches have limited efficacy, with an average 5 year survival of 7% and are associated with a range of toxic, off-site side effects which in many cases can be dose limiting. Therefore the best chance of increasing survival currently is increasing the % of patients who are eligible for surgery. The ChemoGel technology aims to offer a new approach to treatment by delivering drugs directly to the tumour site achieving a high local concentration and enabling them to be retained there for prolonged periods maximising  efficacy while concomitantly reducing systemic toxicity. This has the potential to reduce overall tumour burden and size in patients suffering from locally advanced pancreatic cancer offering the possibility of making them suitable for surgical resection and potentially significantly improving overall survival rates in this patient cohort.

Technology

Chemogel is a thermoresponsive gel which means it is liquid at room temp however transitions to a semi-solid hydrogel at higher temperatures close to body temperature. It can act as a drug delivery platform to a broad range of chemotherapeutic agents and can be delivered in a minimally invasive manner using standard endoscopic techniques (endoscopic ultrasound fine needle injection, EUS-FNI). It aims to offer a new approach to treatment by delivering drugs directly to the tumour site. This will achieve a high local concentration, with the gel providing prolonged retention and sustained release, maximising efficacy while concomitantly reducing systemic toxicity. ChemoGel has the potential to reduce the overall tumour burden in certain pancreatic cancer patient cohorts, making them eligible for surgery and improving overall survival.

Benefits of Chemogel as on oncology delivery platform

The damaging effects of chemotherapy on off-target tissues contributes to significant patient morbidity and can limit the dosing schedule, resulting in sub-optimal drug concentrations to combat cancer and poor clinical outcome. ChemoGel can facilitate sustained local intratumoural delivery of chemotherapeutics, thus assuring potent antitumoural action, while limiting the systemic exposure to toxic chemotherapeutics. As well as improving patient outcomes, ChemoGel will enable maximum impact with reduced doses of chemotherapeutics, thus driving down treatment costs. This may be of particular benefit with the new generation of high cost immuno-oncology therapeutics.

Technology Readiness Level

Preclinical assessment in two different cancer types
Patent protected technology platform