In January 2017, Deerfield and MD Anderson Cancer Center entered into a strategic collaboration to form Vescor Therapeutics. Vescor is focused on discovery and development of autophagy targeted therapeutics for cancer treatment. Autophagy is a cellular process that plays an important role during the development and maintenance of tumors. It allows tumors to scavenge nutrients to sustain growth and survival. Autophagy also has been demonstrated as critical to therapeutic resistance, and is upregulated during cancer treatment in response to chemotherapy and radiation.
Vescor and founding researchers, Eileen White, PhD, Deputy Director and Associate Director for Basic Science Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Alec Kimmelman, MD, PhD, Chairman, Department of Radiation Oncology at NYU Langone Medical Center and a member of the Pearlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone have demonstrated inhibition of autophagy can dramatically impact tumor growth in pre-clinical models. Vescor will develop small molecule inhibitors of a number of protein targets at critical nodes of the autophagy cascade, perform investigational new drug enabling studies, and move these into clinical development. MDACC’s IACS (Institute for Applied Cancer Science), in combination with Deerfield, will provide drug discovery and development expertise, as well as translational research focused on advancing autophagy therapeutics into trials in melanoma, lung and pancreatic cancers.