Ons 21 feb / År 42 / Nr 5 2023

Using science to overcome resistance in cancer

Founded in May 2017 as a spinout from the biotech Saniona and the University of Copenhagen, Scandion Oncology is developing agents that will re-sensitize drug-resistant cancer cells so that they respond to chemotherapeutics again. Scandion is based at COBIS in Copenhagen, Denmark.

As cancer chemotherapy has advanced, one of the greatest challenges is not getting the disease to respond to initial treatment; it’s dealing with the tumour’s developing resistance to the drug, which leads to relapse in around half of cancer patients. Survival rates in relapsed patients is low.
“In patients with stage 3 colorectal cancer, around 60% of patients will relapse,” said Nils Brünner, co-founder and CEO, Scandion Oncology.
To meet this need, Scandion Oncology is focusing on developing drugs that bypass, or block, the cancer cells’ drug resistance mechanisms, in order to improve outcomes for patients. The initial target is metastatic colon and breast cancer, but other solid tumour indications could follow.
“Scandion Oncology is the only company that I am aware of that focuses on cancer drug resistance and cross-resistance. We are targeting common resistance mechanisms in order to provide a second chance for patients,” said Brünner. “Our approach is drug- and resistance mechanism-specific rather than being specific to cancer type or location.”
Scandion Oncology started with DKK2 million raised as part of a private placement, and plans to float on the Spotlight Stock Market, Stockholm, before the end of 2018.

Building a pipeline
Scandion Oncology has two drugs in clinical and preclinical development, backed up by more than 800 analogues. The company’s lead drug, SCO-101, has completed four phase I trials with no apparent toxicity, and a phase IIa study in patients with chemotherapy-resistant cancer is planned for 2019. SCO-101 has the advantage that it can be taken at home, and patients then go to the hospital or clinic for chemotherapy as normal. SCO-101 has activity against resistance to taxanes, topoisomerase inhibitors and anti-oestrogens.
“SCO-101 was a shelved drug from Saniona that had reached phase I for another indication. Screening assays carried out at the University of Copenhagen revealed its potential, and Scandion Oncology was formed as a spin-out to continue work on the asset,” said Brünner. “It has no anti-cancer activity alone and will be developed as part of a combination. We plan to develop SCO-101 to human proof-of-concept to add value and then seek a partner or licensee.”
SCO-201, Scandion Oncology’s second drug in its pipeline, is in preclinical studies. This is also oral, and is designed to reverse drug resistance by inhibiting an efflux pump.
Scandion Oncology’s drugs are currently being assessed for used in treating metastatic disease in patients who have relapsed as a result of drug resistance. But there could also be potential for their use first-line to prevent relapse by targeting pre-existing resistant clones in heterogenous tumours.