Rare Daily Staff

Shepherd Therapeutics said it entered into a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences to identify drugs and drug combinations from NCATS’ compound libraries that may have the potential to significantly improve treatment options and outcomes for patients with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare head and neck cancer.

Adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) is a rare secretory gland cancer that affects approximately 1,200 Americans each year. No effective therapies currently exist, and the tumors are resistant to conventional chemotherapy. The standard of care is surgical resection and radiation therapy. While complete resection can be curative, it is difficult to achieve, and there is a high rate of recurrence with metastasis to the lungs, bone, and liver. Median survival is approximately 21 months once metastasis occurs.

Discovering new uses for U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs, or drug repurposing, offers a rapid path to potential therapeutic options, and NCATS is developing approaches to advance this strategy across diseases.

As part of the three-year collaboration, NCATS will conduct high throughput screening and other laboratory and research-based activities, including but not limited to those conducted on an ACC cell line. Shepherd will use its AI-enabled drug positioning and development platform, laboratory resources, and other research-based assays to inform and build upon NCATS’ screening and laboratory activities.

“Many people with rare cancers are given few options, as a result of a lack of funding, research, and data,” said Katherine Arline, chief strategy officer of Shepherd and investigator on the project. “We are fueled at Shepherd by the belief that having a rare cancer diagnosis shouldn’t mean that you lack a standard of care or have fewer treatment options than patients with common cancer diagnoses.”

Photo: Katherine Arline, chief strategy officer of Shepherd

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