What We Do

 

Unique Approach to Cancer Therapy
Esperance is developing unique and innovative targeted cancer drugs, called membrane disrupting peptides (MDPs) that utilize a novel mechanism of action to selectively kill cancer cells. These drugs kill only cancer cells that express the target molecules without harming normal cells. They destroy primary tumors and eliminate metastatic cancer cells in preclinical animal models of a wide variety of human cancers including breast, prostate, ovarian, endometrial and testicular cancers. Another great characteristic of Esperance’s drugs is that they kill cancer cells that are known to be resistant to traditional chemotherapeutic drugs.   Esperance believes that its unique cancer targeting technology is a major technical advance over previous and other approaches that attempt to deliver cytotoxic molecules.

Mechanism of Action
Esperance’s drugs kill cancer cells by disrupting their cell membranes leading to cell lysis. The steps involved in cell killing are summarized in Figure 1. The drugs seek out and specifically bind only to cancer cells that express the target receptors on their surfaces (Step 1).  The positively charged Esperance’s drugs interact with the negatively charged membranes of the cancer cells. The resulting disruption of the cell membrane causes the cancer cell to die by cell lysis (Steps 2 to 4).

Pharmaceutical properties
Esperance’s drugs exhibit favorable pharmaceutical properties including:

  • Rapid action on the cancer cells, without need for internalization
  • Synthetic low molecular weight molecules  
  • Water-soluble, suitable for intravenous injection       
  • Highly selective to cancer cells that over-express the target receptors    
  • Very good safety margins in vivo 
  • Kill dividing and non-dividing cells including cells that are resistant to chemotherapy. 
    Other cancer drugs kill only rapidly dividing cells

Initial Products and Rationale
Esperance’s initial drugs are small peptides made by fusing Luteinizing Hormone Releasing Hormone (LHRH) or a 15 amino acid segment of human Chorionic Gonadotropin (CG) to novel cytolytic MDPs to specifically target and kill cancer cells that over-express the LHRH and CG receptors. The drugs are intended for intravenous injection.  Esperance’s rationale for targeting LHRH or CG receptors for anti-cancer drug development is supported by several studies that have revealed that a surprisingly large group of cancers, both hormone-dependent and hormone-independent cancers, over-express LHRH and CG receptors. The cancers that over-express the binding sites or receptors for LHRH and CG including breast, prostate, ovarian, endometrial, testicular, pancreatic, colon, lung, renal, liver, cervical and testicular cancers account for more than 50% of all cancer-related deaths.

Personalized Medicine Approach
Esperance is also developing a companion diagnostic system that will be used to select patients who are likely to respond to its drugs during clinical trials and after approval of the drugs. Biopsies obtained from cancer patients are obtained and analyzed for the presence of the target receptors. Only patients whose biopsies contain high levels of the target receptors will be treated with the Esperance drug. This “personalized medicine” approach will increase the probability of demonstrating success in the clinical trials designed to show efficacy of the drugs because only a selected group of cancer patients will be treated and likely to show efficacy.