UK-based healthcare firm BTG has signed an agreement to out-license an investigational ovarian cancer treatment to Irish biopharmaceutical company Carrick Therapeutics.

The agreement gives Carrick exclusive worldwide development and commercialisation rights to develop and commercialise the therapeutic.

Previously called BTG945 and ONX-0801, the drug candidate has been renamed to CT900 after transfer to Carrick.

Discovered by Institute of Cancer Research, London (ICR), CT900 is a targeted, small molecule compound designed to target folate receptor α (FRα) as well as inhibit thymidylate synthase.

The candidate selectively enters cancer cells that over-express folate receptor α (FRα), compared to normal tissues, and kills them by inhibiting thymidylate synthase.

Carrick noted that it has started preparations for pivotal studies, with plans for a clinical development programme in other cancers. The new trial will be led by Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

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Carrick Therapeutics chief executive Elaine Sullivan said: “The addition of CT900 to our pipeline further strengthens Carrick’s multi-asset portfolio targeting critical pathways that drive aggressive and resistant cancers.

“The addition of CT900 to our pipeline further strengthens Carrick’s multi-asset portfolio targeting critical pathways that drive aggressive and resistant cancers.”

“In addition to ovarian cancer, we will be investigating CT900 in other difficult to treat cancers that express high levels of folate receptor alpha. These patients can be selected via a companion diagnostic based on folate receptor alpha expression.”

The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust have already evaluated the drug candidate in advanced ovarian cancer patients during the Phase I clinical trial.

CT900 was found to be safe with favourable effectiveness profile. It was further observed that the drug shrank tumours in seven of 15 patients who had stopped responding to the standard chemotherapy.

In pharmacodynamic studies, the drug was observed to be acting on its target in patient scans.

ICR hopes that results from the new trial would be enough to obtain regulatory approval for use of CT900 in certain patients who experienced inadequate response to existing treatment options.