Professor Sir Chris Evans
Chairman & Founder, Ellipses Pharma
A drug development company has assembled one of the world’s largest and most diverse groups of global cancer experts to help accelerate the availability of new treatments for patients.
People with a range of cancers are seeing increasingly improved outcomes thanks to innovative drug development and new treatment regimes. Yet, despite these advances and high rates of recovery for patients, the development of new treatments often remains prolonged.
Contributing to cancer treatments
To overcome this, UK-based Ellipses Pharma — which focuses exclusively on the development of cancer medicine and treatments — has built a pioneering cloud-based platform to gather scientific and clinical insight from renowned cancer experts across the world.
More than 230 oncologists work independently within the company’s Scientific Affairs Group (SAG) to help validate the selection of new cancer medicines. They also select patients who may benefit from each medicine and provide unbiased input during the development of each drug using real-world evidence.
Professor Sir Chris Evans, the company chairman and founder, says: “From the outset, we decided to build the most extensive SAG anywhere, so we could pick oustanding potential cancer treatments quickly and accelerate their development to get them to patients.”
More input for better decisions
This approach was developed amid concerns that many cancer programmes fail to maximise this critical scientific advisory resource, resulting in poor decision-making, unnecessary delays in development and conflicts in the selection of potential treatments and the design of clinical trials.
Harnessing the expertise and input of the SAG enables Ellipses Pharma to capture a wider range of specialist views, leading to better decisions. Oncologists from leading cancer centres and research establishments around the world provide reviews of the scientific and clinical trial data for each asset alongside insights into local practices, patient populations and evidence of the competitive landscape.
Enabling targeted cancer treatment
Feedback is gathered from 50–70 experts simultaneously on each medicine taken forward. This scientific consensus can de-risk the development of new drugs by better understanding which patients will have the most benefit from each medicine.
The feedback can reveal new opportunities for those who may be candidates for the drug, for example, by showing that a particular molecule has applications in cancers that mutate and escape existing treatments, as well as in the tumours that it was originally intended to treat.
Increasing chances of success
The input from the SAG facilitates the adaptation of drug development in response to new data, with experts commenting on clinical trial design, patient stratification, biomarker selection and how to increase the chances of successfully developing a new drug.
This scientific consensus can de-risk the development of new drugs by better understanding which patients will have the most benefit from each medicine.
The approach means the drug development company can open studies and enrol trial participants faster while the constant engagement with experts enables modification of treatment protocols, using real-world data from their clinics.
Fulfilment for oncology experts
The value of the approach is acknowledged by participating experts. A Newcastle University professor praised the ability to ‘evaluate in stages’ and complete work in their ‘own time, when more convenient’ while a professor at Cambridge University described the role as ‘fulfilling academically and altruistically.’
An investigational cancer therapeutics specialist at the University of Texas, USA, adds: “Being part of the SAG allows me to make an impact in an even earlier stage of an asset when the investment decisions are made.”
Improving therapies while lowering costs
Early evidence shows that the approach is working. Seven of the nine potential treatments, so far, chosen and developed with expert input remain in active development, putting the company above the conventional one-in-eight success rate seen in cancer development.
The company, which plans to expand its SAG membership to 300, says that further increasing the success rate will mean more approved therapies for patients and lower drug development costs. Several of their medicines and clinical trials — treating a broad range of cancers including lung, thyroid, breast cancer and leukaemia — are now gaining international attention. Recently, the progress of Ellipses drugs currently in trials was reported to the prestigious American Society of Clinical Oncology conference.