Arno's HDAC inhibitor looks promising in preclinical cachexia study as cash runs low

Ching-Shih Chen

Investigators at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center say they've nailed down fresh preclinical evidence that an experimental HDAC inhibitor can guard against muscle wasting in cancer cases. 

The drug is AR-42, a therapy that was initially developed in Ohio and then outlicensed to Flemington, NJ-based Arno Therapeutics ($ARNI), a biotech company that reported at the end of the third quarter that it was perilously close to running out of cash. Its stock currently trades for 32 cents a share.

The researchers say that they have garnered a significant amount of preclinical data that demonstrates that their HDAC inhibitor can work along well-known cancer pathways while preserving muscle mass as well as body weight among cancer patients.

In this latest preclinical effort, the researchers pitted their oral drug against two other HDAC inhibitors, vorinostat and romidepsin, seeing distinct improvements in disease models. 

"These new findings show that AR-42 can preserve muscle and every aspect of its functionality, which is an important step in refining potential methods of stopping cancer cachexia," says Ching-Shih Chen, a professor and scientist with the OSUCCC-James Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention research program.

At this stage, though, Arno--which is conducting a Phase I/II trial of its lead drug onapristone in prostate cancer--will be hard pressed to demonstrate any clinical efficacy without raising significantly more cash. The biotech reported back in 2013 that it had raised about $30 million from George Soros and others. In its latest quarterly statement, though, the company reported that it only had enough cash to make it through the fourth quarter. At the end of September the biotech had about $100,000 in cash on hand, then raised another $2.1 million in debt in October.

- here's the release on the preclinical cachexia study
- get the journal abstract