RARE Daily

Shepherd and Oncoheroes Partner to on Medicines for Rare Cancers

February 16, 2021

Rare Daily Staff

Shepherd Therapeutics, a company dedicated to accelerating lifesaving treatments for rare cancer patients, and Oncoheroes Biosciences, a company focused on advancing new therapies for childhood cancer, have entered into a partnership to collaborate in the discovery, development and commercialization of innovative drug products for rare oncology indications.

Out of 400 known distinct cancers, 380 are considered rare according to the American Cancer Society’s metric of an incidence of less than 6 per 100,000. Rare cancers affect almost one in three new patients, or more than half a million Americans each year. Despite the prevalence of rare cancers, 2012-2016 data shows that 75 percent of all clinical trials did not specifically include even one rare cancer by name.

Childhood cancer is considered a rare disease that accounts for about 1 percent of all U.S. cancer diagnoses. Every year, cancer takes the lives of 90,000 children and adolescents worldwide, despite treatment advances in recent decades. Although cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among children in the United States, pediatric oncology treatments are lacking. Only five pediatric-specific drugs have been granted U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in the last 20 years versus more than 200 for adults.

Under the terms of their collaboration, the companies will use DELVE, Shepherd’s next-generation, precision-oncology platform that integrates bioinformatics, machine learning and mathematics, to unveil unprecedented insights into rare cancers, including childhood cancer. DELVE enables the companies to move beyond a single target-based approach to identify all of the primary mechanisms of action responsible for drug response and resistance within the human transcriptome.

The first project of the collaboration will identify additional pediatric and rare adult indications for Oncoheroes’ lead asset, volasertib. Volasertib is an inhibitor of Polo-like-kinase 1 (PLK1), an enzyme known to be involved in disease progression in a number of cancers. Volasertib has recently been granted Rare Pediatric Disease and Orphan Drug designations by the FDA for the treatment of rhabdomyosarcoma, the most common soft tissue sarcoma in children and young adults, representing 3 to 4 percent of all childhood cancers.

“Getting a diagnosis of cancer as a child should not be a death sentence, yet too many lives are being lost or diminished because of a dearth of pediatric cancer research and treatments,” said David Hysong, CEO of Shepherd. “Shepherd and Oncoheroes are coming together in hope and in action, leveraging the full extent of our combined technology, experience and expertise to help save lives.”

Photo: David Hysong, CEO of Shepherd

Stay Connected

Sign up for updates straight to your inbox.