Pluristem Therapeutics Inc., a leading developer of placenta-based cell therapy products, announced the appointment of Dr. Hillard Lazarus of Case Western Reserve University as the Principal Investigator of the Company’s Phase I trial of its PLacental eXpanded (PLX)-R18 cells to treat incomplete hematopoietic recovery following hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT).
Enrollment for the Phase I trial, which was recently cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is expected to begin in the coming months at multiple clinical sites in the U.S. The open label, dose escalating study will evaluate the safety of intramuscular injections of PLX-R18 in 30 patients with incomplete hematopoietic recovery following HCT. Additional endpoints will include changes in platelet and hemoglobin levels, transfusion frequency, frequency of shift from transfusion dependence to transfusion independence, quality of life, and various immunological parameters in the blood.
Dr. Lazarus is a Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University and doctor of Hematology-Oncology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. He is the George & Edith Richman Professor and Distinguished Scientist in Cancer Research and Director of Novel Cell Therapy. He was Director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program for over 25 years. For the past decade, he has been the Principal Investigator of the Case Consortium of the Blood & Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network. Having developed many new anti-cancer therapies and sophisticated supportive care technologies, Dr. Lazarus is internationally recognized for his contributions in several areas, including mesenchymal stem cell transplantation and allogeneic blood and marrow transplantation for malignancies. Dr. Lazarus has over 600 publications to his name and is the Editor-in-Chief of both Bone Marrow Transplantation and Blood Reviews. He is a member of Pluristem’s clinical advisory board for the development of PLX-R18 in hematology, and was actively involved in both the selection of the indication and the study design.
“We are pleased and honored that Dr. Lazarus will lead our Phase I trial as Principal Investigator. His extensive experience in the field of hematologic-oncology is an asset to our PLX-R18 development program,” stated Pluristem Chairman and CEO Zami Aberman.
Hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) is a standard treatment for a range of conditions, including malignant diseases such as multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, and acute myeloid leukemia, as well as non-malignant diseases and autoimmune disorders such as aplastic anemia and thalassemia. The hematopoietic cells for HCT can come from a donor (allogeneic) or from the patient (autologous), and can be harvested from peripheral blood, bone marrow or umbilical cord blood.
In a number of cases, complete hematopoietic recovery following HCT is not reached, and patients are at increased risk of bleeding, infection, anemia, and poor general function. Current treatments include administration of factors stimulating growth of specific blood cell types, such as granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF), granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), and erythropoietin. However, a significant number of patients do not respond to growth factors and may require frequent transfusions, which expose them to transfusion-related risks such as allo-sensitization and infections, without providing a curative solution. These are also associated with significant costs.
“Having previously studied the potential of PLX-R18 in pre-clinical settings to improve outcomes for umbilical cord blood stem cell transplantation, I am eager to lead a clinical trial to explore PLX-R18’s benefits in hematologic recovery following HCT,” commented Dr. Lazarus. “Positive clinical data could support further development of PLX-R18 to increase the success rates of transplants used to treat a broad range of indications.”
PLX-R18 is Pluristem’s second cell therapy product cleared for clinical studies by the U.S. FDA. It has already been studied in preclinical models of acute radiation syndrome, support of hematopoietic cell transplants, and side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapies used to treat cancers. Preclinical data from trials conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Hadassah Medical Center, and other prominent research institutions have shown that PLX-R18 cells secrete a range of specific proteins that trigger the regeneration of bone marrow hematopoietic cells, thereby supporting the recovery of blood cell production. By this mechanism of action, PLX-R18 could potentially treat a broad range of hematologic indications.