Curie-Cancer and DNA Therapeutics partner
The ongoing collaboration will aim to provide a new class of therapeutic cancer products to patients, including those who are resistant to conventional therapies.
Initial clinical results are encouraging
The first molecule based on Dbait technology, DT01, is currently being assessed in combination with radiation therapy, in a Phase I clinical trial for approximately 20 patients with cutaneous metastatic chemotherapy-resistant melanoma. DT01 is the result of the partnership between Curie-Cancer and DNA Therapeutics. Dr. Christophe Le Tourneau, head of early-phase clinical trials at the Institut Curie and principal investigator for this trial, has already treated the first patients with this unique class of drugs.
Initial results indicate that:
- Cancers that are resistant to conventional therapies, including advanced-stage melanoma, can be treated with Dbait technology
- DT01 is effective and very well-tolerated in combination with radiation therapy
- DT01 has a high potential for development, pending validation by other early-phase clinical trials, particularly in combination with chemotherapy for advanced-stage cancer
The full results from Phase I are expected within the next year.
Dbait, a new class of cancer drugs
Cancer cells can easily repair damage incurred in their DNA from conventional therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. A proposal has been made to limit this ability to repair by inhibiting an enzyme involved in the process. “There are multiple DNA repair pathways but there is no single enzyme that is common to all repair pathways,” says Marie Dutreix, CNRS research director at the Institut Curie. “In addition to being effective, the therapeutic approach should also be non-toxic to healthy cells. With Dbait we have a very unique approach.”
“Instead of targeting a specific enzyme of a repair pathway, Dbait works upstream of all repair pathways with regards to detecting damage caused by radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. By disrupting the localization of the site of this damage, Dbait prevents any repair and kills cancer cells when they divide. What’s noteworthy is that the specific characteristics of cancer cells make them more vulnerable to the effects of Dbait than healthy cells, ensuring that the latter do not die,” says Marie Dutreix.
Curie-Cancer alongside DNA Therapeutics throughout the entire research process
To support this highly promising clinical research program, DNA Therapeutics and Curie-Cancer will focus their work on five key areas:
- Further understanding of the Dbait mechanisms of action, to better explain the lack of toxicity of these inhibitors on normal tissue
- Characterize the most responsive tumors as well as the most efficacious combinations with standard therapies to prepare for future clinical trials
- Identify potential resistance mechanisms to Dbait
- Identify predictive biomarkers for responding to Dbait
- Develop second-generation Dbait molecules with improved pharmacokinetic properties
“We find all the expertise and support that we need from Curie-Cancer,” says Prof. Jian-Sheng Sun, CEO and founder of DNA Therapeutics. “The reputation of the Institut Curie, in terms of the quality of its fundamental and clinical research, speaks for itself. However, the continued support, even during difficult times, from Curie-Cancer and its ability to apply complementary expertise throughout the development process of a drug have definitely contributed the most to our success. While we are in the clinical assessment stage, Curie-Cancer is ready to launch, in partnership with Marie Dutreix and ourselves, a translational research program to support our efforts. The results of this program will be crucial in shortening time-to-market of our product in the best possible conditions.”
“The Institut Curie is pleased with this long-term partnership, which started at the fundamental research stage and continues today to the clinical research stage. Seeing a drug developed in our laboratory then become available to our patients is immensely rewarding. We look forward to the results of the current assessments and hope that this new class of drug can soon be offered to more patients,” says Damien Salauze, director of Curie-Cancer. “Supporting a French SME in its development and seeing these efforts rewarded are another source of satisfaction. This is another example of the values enshrined in the Institut Carnot label we received from the French government in 2011 for our commitment to providing practical solutions for our industry partners and ultimately, for patients."
Curie-Cancer is the body responsible for developing Institut Curie’s industry partnership activities. It oversees the institute’s existing industry partnerships as well as areas of high potential interest to industry partners. Institut Curie’s 1,200 researchers provide the high level of expertise in oncology required to collaborate with industry partners in creating and subsequently developing cancer therapies.
Curie-Cancer management has extensive industry experience and can call upon a vast pool of scientists involved in basic and clinical research. In 2011, Curie-Cancer was awarded the ‘Institut Carnot’ label by the French government, which recognizes excellence and involvement in research partnerships.
About Institut Curie
Institut Curie is a private foundation founded in 1909 by Marie Curie, the first woman Nobel prize-winner and the first double Nobel prize-winner. It is the leading comprehensive cancer center (combining research and patient care) in Europe. Institut Curie’s research center and hospital employs 3,200 scientists, physicians, nurses, technicians and administrative staff. The institute’s current objectives include increasing the proportion of research programs carried out in partnership with industry so that research results can lead to faster availability of products and services for the benefit of patients.
For more information: http://www.curie.fr/en
About DNA Therapeutics
Founded in June 2006 as a spin-off of four French research institutions led by the Institut Curie, DNA Therapeutics is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company. The headquarters are located in the Genopole biocluster at Evry, near Paris, France. The company develops a new class of targeted drugs addressing cancer resistance to conventional cancer therapies, based on an original concept named ‘Dbait’. This innovative therapeutic approach is designed to fully inhibit DNA repair activities – a key mechanism by which cancer cells escape the effects of radiation and chemotherapy. Its lead product - DT01 - has already shown good tolerance and anti-tumor activity in combination with radiotherapy in patients. The ability of DT01 to improve the efficacy of cancer treatment without additional toxicity in healthy tissues – a better therapeutic index – makes it a promising drug candidate. The next step will be the demonstration of its systemic anticancer activity in combination with chemotherapy in major indications with unmet needs. DNA Therapeutics holds the exclusive worldwide license of a large IP portfolio of Dbait technology (composition of matter and uses in cancer) with freedom-to-operate.
How UiPath robots are helping with the NHS backlog
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many hospitals to have logistical nightmares, as backlogs of surgeries built up as a result of cancellations. The BMJ has estimated it will take the UK's National Health Service (NHS) a year and a half to recover.
However software robots can help, by automating computer-based processes such as replenishing inventory, managing patient bookings, and digitising patient files. Mark O’Connor, Public Sector Director for Ireland at UiPath, tells us how they deployed robots at Mater Hospital in Dublin, saving clinicians valuable time.
When Did Mater Hospital implement the software robots - was it specifically to address the challenges of the pandemic?
The need for automation at Mater Hospital pre-existed the pandemic but it was the onset of COVID-19 that got the team to turn to the technology and start introducing software robots into the workflow of doctors and nurses.
The pandemic placed an increased administrative strain on the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) department at Mater Hospital in Dublin. To combat the problem and ensure that nurses could spend more time with their patients and less time on admin, the IPC deployed its first software robots in March 2020.
The IPC at Mater plans to continue using robots to manage data around drug resistant microbes such as MRSA once the COVID-19 crisis subsides.
What tasks do they perform?
In the IPC at Mater Hospital, software robots have taken the task of reporting COVID-19 test results. Pre-automation, the process created during the 2003 SARS outbreak required a clinician to log into the laboratory system, extract a disease code and then manually enter the results into a data platform. This was hugely time consuming, taking up to three hours of a nurse’s day.
UiPath software robots are now responsible for this task. They process the data in a fraction of the time, distributing patient results in minutes and consequently freeing up to 18 hours of each IPC nurse’s time each week, and up to 936 hours over the course of a year. As a result, the healthcare professionals can spend more time caring for their patients and less time on repetitive tasks and admin work.
Is there any possibility of error with software robots, compared to humans?
By nature, humans are prone to make mistakes, especially when working under pressure, under strict deadlines and while handling a large volume of data while performing repetitive tasks.
Once taught the process, software robots, on the other hand, will follow the same steps every time without the risk of the inevitable human error. Simply speaking, robots can perform data-intensive tasks more quickly and accurately than humans can.
Which members of staff benefit the most, and what can they do with the time saved?
In the case of Mater Hospital, the IPC unit has adopted a robot for every nurse approach. This means that every nurse in the department has access to a robot to help reduce the burden of their admin work. Rather than spending time entering test results, they can focus on the work that requires their human ingenuity, empathy and skill – taking care of their patients.
In other sectors, the story is no different. Every job will have some repetitive nature to it. Whether that be a finance department processing thousands of invoices a day or simply having to send one daily email. If a task is repetitive and data-intensive, the chances are that a software robot can help. Just like with the nurses in the IPC, these employees can then focus on handling exceptions and on work that requires decision making or creativity - the work that people enjoy doing.
How can software robots most benefit healthcare providers both during a pandemic and beyond?
When the COVID-19 outbreak hit, software robots were deployed to lessen the administrative strain healthcare professionals were facing and give them more time to care for an increased number of patients. With hospitals around the world at capacity, every moment with a patient counted.
Now, the NHS and other healthcare providers face a huge backlog of routine surgeries and procedures following cancellations during the pandemic. In the UK alone, 5 million people are waiting for treatment and it’s estimated that this could cause 6,400 excess deaths by the end of next year if the problem isn’t rectified.
Many healthcare organisations have now acquired the skills needed to deploy automation, therefore it will be easier for them to build more robots to respond to the backlog going forwards. Software robots that had been processing registrations at COVID test sites, for example, could now be taught how to schedule procedures, process patient details or even manage procurement and recruitment to help streamline the processes associated with the backlog. The possibilities are vast.
The technology, however, should not be considered a short-term, tactical and reactive solution that can be deployed in times of crisis. Automation has the power to solve systematic problems that healthcare providers face year-round. Hospital managers should consider the wider challenge of dealing with endless repetitive work that saps the energy of professionals and turns attention away from patient care and discuss how investing in a long-term automation project could help alleviate these issues.
How widely adopted is this technology in healthcare at the moment?
Automation was being used in healthcare around the world before the pandemic, but the COVID-19 outbreak has certainly accelerated the trend.
Automation’s reach is wide. From the NHS Shared Business Service in the UK to the Cleveland Clinic in the US and healthcare organisations in the likes of Norway, India and Canada, we see a huge range of healthcare providers deploying automation technology.
Many healthcare providers, however, are still in the early stages of their journeys or are just discovering automation’s potential because of the pandemic. I expect to see the deployment of software robots in healthcare grow over the coming years as its benefits continue to be realised globally.
How do you see this technology evolving in the future?
If one thing is certain, it’s that the technology will continue to evolve and grow over time – and I believe there will come a point in time when all processes that can be automated, will be automated. This is known as the fully automated enterprise.
By joining all automation projects into one enterprise-wide effort, the healthcare industry can tap into the full benefits of the technology. This will involve software robots becoming increasingly intelligent in order to reach and improve more processes. Integrating the capabilities of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning into automation, for example, will allow providers to reach non-rule-based processes too.
We are already seeing steps towards this being taken by NHS Shared Business Service, for example. The organisation, which provides non-clinical services to around two-thirds of all NHS provider trusts and every clinical commissioning organisation in the UK, is working to create an entire eco-system of robots. It believes that no automation should be looked at in isolation, but rather the technology should stretch across departments and functions. As such, inefficiencies in the care pathway can be significantly reduced, saving healthcare providers a substantial amount of time and money.