The oncology space is one that is undergoing a rapid evolution. With nearly 600,000 deaths per year, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, and it has the attention of world class researchers internationally.
This innovation in medicine has led to more treatment options than ever before, but it’s not enough. Cancer still a pressing concern. Nonetheless, one company, Cellectar Biosciences (NASDAQ: CLRB), is making some serious progress.
The company’s proprietary phospholipid ether (PLE) is proving to be incredibly effective in the creation of phospholipid drug conjugates (PDCs) that effectively target cancer cells. This leads to rapid cancer cell death and a low risk of adverse events. This is a compelling story, and should all continue to go as it has been going, CLRB could quickly become a leader in the oncology space.
What Is CLRB?
Cellectar Biosciences is a clinical-stage biotechnology company. It is focused on the discovery, development, and commercialization of drugs for the treatment of cancer. The company has developed a proprietary phospholipid ether (PLE) platform that specifically targets treatments to cancer cells.
This is important, as many treatments available today lead to serious adverse events. The adverse events happen because these treatments target a specific area of the body, killing both healthy cells and cancer cells, and leading to a wide range of side effects.
The PDCs that CLRB is working on are very different. Due to the highly-targeted nature of these treatments, clinical studies have shown that adverse events are greatly reduced. At the same time, this targeting seems to be leading to stronger efficacy.
CLR 131: Cellectar’s Flagship Product Candidate
A great example of the power of the PDC treatment options being developed by CLRB is their flagship product candidate, CLR 131. This PDC is currently under development in an ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial targeting relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma and relapsed or refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL).
Before we get to the data here, it’s important that you know that this trial isn’t in first- or second-line patients. As patients receive more lines of therapy, the potential efficacy drops. In fact, after the third line of therapy, potential efficacy drops off of a cliff, making patients very difficult to treat.
In the relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma cohort of the Phase 2 clinical trial, CLRB is targeting the cancer in patients that have already received an average of 5 prior lines of therapy. This patient population represents the most difficult-to-treat population in the Multiple Myeloma space. With that being said, the company has seen strong signs of efficacy.
In a press release issued on February 25, 2019, Cellectar Biosciences announced data from the first 10 evaluable patients in the relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma cohort of the trial. These patients received one 30-minute infusion of 25mCi/m2 on days 1 and 8.
In the release, the company said that CLR 131 achieved a 30% overall response rate. One of the patients achieved a very good partial response (a 90% or greater decrease in surrogate marker) and two had partial responses (a 50% to 89% decrease in surrogate marker). It’s also worth mentioning that all patients in the cohort demonstrated stable disease after treatment. Moreover, none of the patients experienced any serious adverse events.
The company has also seen similar results in the DLBCL cohort of the trial. In fact, the company recently announced a 33% response rate in patients in this cohort.
Moving forward in the trial, the company has adopted a larger fractional dose of 15.625mCi/m2 on days 1 and 8. This larger dose has the potential to lead to improved efficacy.
In a statement with regard to the most recently announced data from the relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma cohort of the trial, James Caruso, President and CEO at CLRB, had the following to offer:
“We are encouraged by the 30% response rate and continued positive results in our ongoing Phase 2 study of CLR 131.
This represents the second cohort of patients who have demonstrated encouraging responses to our lead drug candidate while receiving sub-optimal single doses. We look forward to the availability of additional data this year and will continue to aggressively enroll patients and dose at higher levels that have the potential to generate increased efficacy.”
It’s also worth mentioning that CLR 131 is in early stages of development for various forms of pediatric and head and neck cancers, only increasing the potential value of this treatment option.
CLRB Is Not A One Trick Pony
While CLR 131 is the flagship treatment candidate at Cellectar Biosciences, it’s not the only candidate. The company is in the early development stages of 6 other targeted oncology treatments. These candidates include:
- CLR 1900 – CLR 1900 is currently in the research and development phase. It is expected that the proprietary treatment will lead to cell cycle arrest in solid tumor cancer cells.
- CLR 1800 – CLR 1800 is a partnership candidate which the company is working with Pierre Fabre to develop. The asset is currently in the pre-IND phase. Its method of action is proprietary translation inhibition, and it is currently being studied in solid tumors.
- CLR 2000 – In a partnership with Avicenna Oncology, CLRB is working to develop CLR 2000. The treatment is currently being assessed against various tumor types to see where it will perform best. The method of action in this candidate is cytoskeleton disruption.
- CLR 2100 – In a partnership with Onconova Therapeutics, the company is working to develop CLR 2100, a proprietary ribosomal inhibitor aimed at the treatment of solid tumor cancers.
- CLR 2200 – Another asset under development in partnership with Onconova Therapeutics, CLR 2200 is aimed at targeting solid tumors through the disruption of tubulin.
- CLR 12120 – Finally, Oranomed and Cellectar Biosciences have teamed up to develop CLR 12120. The method of action of the treatment hasn’t been announced. However, we do know that the companies are working to target solid tumor cancers with the treatment.
The Market Potential Is Staggering
When looking into clinical-stage biotechnology companies, there are several factors that I dig into. One of the most important is the size of the addressable market. When it comes to CLRB, the company’s market potential is staggering.
If CLR 131 were to be approved in the relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma and DLBCL indications, it would be tapping into a highly valuable space. In fact, by 2024, it is expected that the annual multiple myeloma therapeutics market will reach $37.5 billion. By the same year, it is expected that the B-cell lymphoma market will reach $5.45 billion!
While the chances of the company taking these entire markets are zero, there is a good chance that once approved, CLR 131 could take a large enough portion of both of these markets to make a meaningful impact for investors.
Not to mention, these markets are just the tip of the iceberg. As mentioned above, Cellectar Biosciences is currently working on head and neck and pediatric cancer indications with CLR 131. Moreover, the company has 6 other assets under development, all which have the potential to address highly valuable markets!
The Bottom Line
The bottom line here is a relatively simple one. Innovation at Cellectar Biosciences has led to a proprietary PLE platform that is generating PDC compounds with incredible promise in the treatment of various types of cancer.
Considering the strong results in some of the most difficult-to-treat oncology indications, CLRB is leading the charge in an exciting change in the way in which cancer is treated. Highly targeted compounds leading to better efficacy and improved safety profiles are what I believe to be the future in the treatment of cancer.
With a large addressable market, strong data suggesting efficacy in some of the most difficult-to-treat oncology indications, and an impressive pipeline, I believe that Cellectar Biosciences represents a compelling opportunity for investors.
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