Anticancer drug begins clinical trials

Lynn Dyster and Allen Barnett of Kinex with UB’s David Hangauer (far right).

An anticancer drug developed by Kinex Pharmaceuticals of Buffalo and a UB faculty researcher has begun clinical testing with patients.

As part of FDA-mandated phase 1 testing, KX2-391 is being administered to a group of patients with advanced cancer who have not responded to other therapies. In nonhuman testing, the drug has been shown to be active against all cancers, according to Kinex Pharmaceuticals CEO Allen Barnett.

KX2-391 may be the first small-molecule drug discovered and developed in Buffalo that has progressed to the human trial stage. The phase 1 trial is a first step toward FDA approval of the drug and is intended to test the safety and dosage tolerability of the drug.

“We’re very excited about the drug’s potential,” Barnett says. “As we go further in the drug’s development, and do broader testing, we get better and better data. If the drug works half or a third as well as it’s worked in preclinical trials, it will have blockbuster, billion-dollar potential.”

The drug was created from the work of David Hangauer, UB associate professor of chemistry, who developed a compound that targets Src (“sark”) kinase, a protein that is linked to the survival of cancer cells. Hangauer’s drug compounds, known as protein kinase inhibitors, are designed to shrink tumors and prevent metastases.

Kinases are considered one of the most lucrative classes of drug targets in the pharmaceutical industry, and Hangauer is the first to develop a kinase drug that targets a unique site on the kinase target. KX2-391 is the first in this class of drugs to progress to the clinical trial stage.

“We have the first success to come from this approach,” explains Hangauer, who also serves as Kinex senior vice president of research and development. “Cancer is a very tough disease to treat with drugs,” he adds, “but we think this will be better than any kinase inhibitor currently available.”