Cancer therapies have advanced significantly in recent years. Challenges remain, however, including limited ability of drugs to successfully reach the tumor, short half-life and low retention rate on site. Recognizing these challenges as an opportunity, PanTher Therapeutics, a clinical-stage oncology company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, is developing sustained treatments engineered for localized applications.
The company’s proprietary platform enables customized therapeutic solutions to address specific challenges dictated by tumor type, location, and treatment regimen. The yielded investigational candidates can be integrated with several routes of administration (that is, laparoscopic, endoscopic and/or robotic procedures) and allow for the direct and sustained release of a range of treatment modalities including small molecules, large molecules, and mRNA (Fig. 1).
Leveraging decades of material science, pharmacology, and cancer biology, PanTher’s innovative approach is truly differentiated from current technologies. In a highly competitive innovative drug discovery market, PanTher’s technology focuses on optimizing the route of administration to unlock a drug’s full potential.
“By harnessing interventional oncology to directly administer therapy to tumor, we have the ability to completely bypass the circulatory system enabling maximal locoregional accumulation,” said Laura Indolfi, PanTher Therapeutics’ CEO and co-founder. “Engineering sustained in-situ treatments enhances retention in the peritumoral area and results in increased therapeutic efficacy while reducing the many side effects associated with standard systemic treatments.” Therefore, PanTher’s platform has the potential for an improved safety profile and can easily be used in conjunction with other therapies to increase antitumoral activity, leading to several combination therapy possibilities.
PTM-101 targeting pancreatic cancer
The company’s lead candidate is PTM-101, a minimally invasive, implantable treatment for pancreatic cancer providing sustained release of paclitaxel. PTM-101 is a biodegradable bilayer film placed directly in the peritumoral area at the time of a standard-of-care laparoscopic procedure. “The tumor-facing side of PTM-101 releases the full payload at a steady rate over several weeks before it biodegrades. The other side serves as a barrier, keeping cancer cells or chemotherapy from traveling into the body,’’ explained J. Marc Pipas, Chief Medical Officer at PanTher Therapeutics. “By design, PTM-101 gives oncologists the option of introducing treatment during the last step of staging, offering a significant advantage by initiating treatment as early as possible in a disease with high mortality rates.”
Extensive animal model studies demonstrated the safety and efficacy of the approach with improved overall survival. Following the pre-clinical validation, PanTher initiated a phase 1 study led by Charles Pilgrim, a clinician and oncology researcher at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. The clinical trial is testing PTM-101 as first-line treatment for patients diagnosed with non-metastatic inoperable pancreatic adenocarcinoma.
Building a leading oncology company
PanTher Therapeutics emerged from academic labs at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Cambridge and has assembled an accomplished team of engineers, entrepreneurs, surgical and medical oncologists. Indolfi, a biomedical engineer by training, is a TED Fellow, and was named one of the 21 ‘most disruptive and transformative change-makers globally’ in 2016. In 2017 she was invited to attend ‘Fortune: Most Powerful Women – Next Gen,’ an event hosted by the international business magazine. Pipas, a medical oncologist who has overseen the development of oncology programs for H3 Biomedicine and Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, joined the company as Chief Medical Officer in 2021 to execute clinical development.
2021 was a successful year for PanTher Therapeutics with the achievement of several important milestones. The company closed an oversubscribed $5.4 million Series A funding round led by Catalyst Health Ventures, launched clinical development of PTM-101 and expanded the team and its pipeline. To cap off the year, PanTher was named ‘Emerging Medtech Company of the Year’ by the New England Venture Capital Association at the 9th Annual NEVY Awards.
Expanding the pipeline and exploring partnerships to reach more patients
PanTher’s customizable approach means it could be used to deliver any variety of molecules, including small molecules, RNA and antibodies to a plethora of different targets such as liver, colon, and lung. PanTher is developing a pipeline of wholly owned products while simultaneously pursuing partnership opportunities. It welcomes discussions with pharma and medtech companies, in oncology or other therapeutic areas, to discern ways to leverage its proprietary platform to improve the lives of patients. The company is also interested in identifying potential global commercialization partners for PTM-101 and other future pipeline candidates.