Erytech’s eryaspase technology has passed Phase IIb, demonstrating its efficacy in the treatment of metastatic pancreatic cancer.
Erytech developed eryaspase technology, GRASPA, where L-asparaginase is encapsulated in red blood cells. It was used in combination with chemotherapy and improved overall survival and progression-free survival. The aim is now to put together a Phase III plan for pancreatic cancer and identify more targets that could be treated.
GRASPA encapsulates L-asparaginase within donor-derived red blood cells. The amino acid, L-asparagine, is essential for cancer cell survival and proliferation. Cancer cells do not have the enzymes required to produce L-asparagine themselves, so they source it from the blood. GRASPA depletes L-asparagine in the blood, which affects cancer growth and survival.
L-asparaginase is a common component of chemotherapy, but it causes side effects that are too much for patients with a weak performance status. Encapsulation overcomes allergy and toxicity, providing patients with a form of the therapy that can be tolerated. It also prevents recognition of the enzyme by antibodies, so it can function for an extended period.
Mechanism of GRASPA.
GRASPA is on the brink of EMA/FDA review for use in the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and Erytech was keen to take the technology into the solid tumors field. In fighting pancreatic cancer, it joins Shire’s small molecule, Onivyde, which was granted marketing authorization by the EMA, and Cantargia who is planning a Phase IIa trial to test the efficacy of its IL1RAP antibody, CAN04. However, it is Erytech who is leading the field at the moment, with US groups beginning to follow their lead.
Pancreatic cancer treatments represent a field in need of real attention due to a particularly low 5-year survival rate of around 9%. Dr. Iman El-Hariry, Chief Medical Officer of Erytech supported this, “Despite intense research efforts, limited progress has been made toward increased overall survival and metastatic pancreatic cancer remains a high unmet medical need.” Progressing into a Phase III study will bring a much-needed alternative a step closer to the clinic. We will see, but this approach by Erytech may be just what is needed.