EpicentRx raises $35M to fund late-phase lung cancer trial

Cancer in newspaper clipping
EpicentRx is also preparing an oncolytic virus for phase 1. (PDPics / Pixabay)

EpicentRx has raised $35 million for late-phase development of RRx-001. The biotech began testing the small molecule in a phase 3 trial of heavily pretreated small cell lung cancer patients late last year. 

RRx-001 advanced into phase 3 on the strength of evidence it can reverse resistance to the platinum chemotherapy regimen physicians give patients as a first-line treatment for small cell lung cancer. The drug, a dinitroazetidine derivative, may drive these changes by increasing blood flow to tumors, thereby increasing oxygen levels and rendering cancer cells more sensitive to treatment.

EpicentRx worked with investment bank Biotech Alliances International to raise money to support further testing of that idea. The result is a series D round supported solely by unidentified, private European investors. EpicentRx will receive the money in three tranches.

The series D, which brings the total raised by RRx-001 up to $77 million, will fund an ongoing phase 3 trial that is assessing the effect of administering RRx-001 in combination with the standard-of-care platinum doublet chemotherapy. The trial is enrolling 126 small cell lung cancer patients who have received at least two lines of treatment with platinum chemotherapy and a checkpoint inhibitor. 

EpicentRx has penciled in the primary completion date for the clinical trial for late next year. While working to complete the study, EpicentRx will also prepare to start testing its lead oncolytic adenovirus in humans.

The West Coast biotech is engineering the viruses to replicate selectively in tumor cells and arming them with transgenes, giving them anti-cancer mechanisms beyond lysis. EpicentRx is preparing to move its lead oncolytic virus candidate, TGF-beta trap, into phase 1. 

EpicentRx CEO Corey Carter sees the two R&D avenues pursued by the company as complementary, noting in a statement that they “reprogram both arms of the immune system, innate and adaptive, to seek out and destroy cancer cells.”