Theriva Biologics Receives Fast Track Designation From FDA For VCN-01 For Treating Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer

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By Kyle Anthony, Benzinga

Theriva Biologics (AMEX: TOVX) is an immuno-oncology company developing oncolytic viruses, otherwise known as cancer cell-infecting viruses, to overcome the protective barrier surrounding solid tumors and selectively kill tumor cells. As a company engaged in developing differentiated clinical-stage therapeutics, Therivas mission is to change patient outcomes by working to improve the current standard of care and transform the cancer therapy landscape.

The firms management and scientific advisory board is comprised of determined and experienced leaders who are committed to offering patients with difficult-to-treat cancers the chance of a longer life. The company recently achieved a significant milestone as the U.S. FDA granted Fast Track Designation (FTD) to its candidate VCN-01 to improve progression-free survival and overall survival in patients with metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Previously, the FDA granted orphan drug designation to VCN-01 for treatment of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC).

Company Background

Founded in 2001 and operating as Synthetic Biologics from 2012, the company was previously focused on developing biologic and drug candidates for various indications, including infectious diseases and gastrointestinal disorders. The company rebranded to Theriva Biologics in September 2022 to reflect its evolving focus on oncolytic viruses and cancer therapies. Regarding the impetus behind the firms rebranding, Steven A. Shallcross, Chief Executive Officer of Theriva Biologics, said, The rebranding solidifies our strategic transformation and reflects our sharpened focus on advancing unique, oncolytic viruses optimized for IV administration. We continue to build on the incredible progress made to date and are diligently advancing our oncolytic adenovirus pipeline. This includes lead clinical-stage program VCN-01, designed to break down the tumor stroma, and preclinical-stage program VCN-11, leveraging our proprietary Albumin Shield Technology to protect systemically administered oncolytic viruses from the host immune system. These two differentiated programs are intended to improve the anti-tumor effect of the oncolytic virus, co-administered chemotherapies and/or immuno-oncology therapeutics. Together, VCN-01 and VCN-11 position Theriva at the forefront of oncolytic virus development. We are excited about Therivas path towards strategic growth, renewed corporate strategy and remain on track to deliver on upcoming value-driving milestones.

Theriva Biologics Pipeline

As Steven A. Shallcrosss preceding quote suggests, Theriva Biologics' leading clinical-stage program, VCN-01, has displayed promise as a treatment solution. Presently, VCN-01 is part of an ongoing phase 2 clinical trial, entitled VIRAGE, where it is being tested in combination with standard-of-care chemotherapy for patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), the most common form of pancreatic cancer. VCN-01 was also administered with the checkpoint inhibitor durvalumab (an FDA-approved immunotherapy for cancer) in a phase 1 study in patients with head and neck cancers and is currently being evaluated in combination with huCART-meso cells cells manufactured using a patients own white blood cells, which are modified to target cancer cells or cells that help cancer to grow in an investigator-sponsored study in patients with either pancreatic cancer or ovarian cancer.

Beyond VCN-01, Theriva Biologics is also developing SYN-004 (ribaxamase), which is aligned with the companys oncology focus and seeks to mitigate adverse outcomes for patients who will undergo bone marrow transplant (allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation) to treat hematologic cancers. 80% to 90% of these patients will be treated with an intravenous -lactam antibiotic, and this antibiotic treatment has been strongly associated with increased incidence and severity of acute graft-vs-host disease (aGVHD), vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE) infection and Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI). Preventing one or all of these outcomes by SYN-004 co-administration may significantly improve treatment outcomes and reduce patient mortality.

VCN-01 Receives Fast Track Designation By The U.S. FDA

Theriva Biologics achieved a significant milestone as the FDA granted Fast Track Designation (FTD) to VCN-01. This designation, in combination with gemcitabine and nab-paclitaxel standard-of-care chemotherapy drugs is aimed at improving progression-free survival and overall survival in patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer. This recognition underscores Theriva Biologics' commitment to advancing cancer treatment and the potential of VCN-01 in this field.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death globally. The increasing incidence of this cancer across the U.S. and other parts of the world is one of the factors driving the need for drugs used in its treatment. According to research published by Fortune Business Insights, the global pancreatic cancer treatment market size was $2.86 billion in 2023 and is projected to grow from $3.30 billion in 2024 to $10.69 billion by 2032.

Attaining FTD is a seminal achievement for pharmaceutical drug companies, as the designation is designed to help treatments reach patients faster by facilitating the development and expediting the review of therapies with the potential to treat serious conditions and fill an unmet medical need. Benefits of FTD to programs include early and frequent interactions with the FDA during the clinical development process, and if relevant criteria are met, the FDA may also review portions of a marketing application before the sponsor submits the complete application.

Regarding Theriva Biologics receiving the FTD, Shallcross said, The FDAs decision to grant FTD to VCN-01 highlights the urgent need for new treatment options for PDAC, which accounts for the 4th highest cause of cancer-associated deaths in the US and Europe. VIRAGE, our Phase 2b trial evaluating VCN-01 in metastatic PDAC continues to progress, with enrollment expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2024. FTD is an important step that furthers our ability to expedite the review of and build upon the compelling clinical data that underscores VCN-01s multiple modes of action and therapeutic potential in combination with chemotherapy or immunotherapy. We will continue to deliver on our mission to advance new therapeutic options for these patients.

Based on the strength of the science and its relevance, VIRAGE was accepted for presentation as a trial-in-progress poster at the 2024 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, held in Chicago, IL, from May 31-June 4.

The Path Forward

Theriva Biologics' approach to cancer treatment differentiates it from its peers, potentially placing the company in a unique market position. As incidences of pancreatic cancer continue to rise globally, drug treatment options, such as VCN-01, will likely rise in demand. With VCN-01 receiving FTD from the U.S. FDA, this milestone speaks to the drug's efficacy and long-run potential. As such, the benefit that Theriva Biologics provides and the value proposition the firm espouses could continue to grow and have increased industry resonance.

Featured photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash.

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