On June 12, the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) of the Université de Montréal celebrated 10 years of activity for its medicinal chemistry core facility, the largest of its kind in a university setting in Canada. Today, the IRIC announces the completion of Phase I/II of the clinical trial testing the efficacy of UM171 Molecule expanded grafts for the treatment of blood cancer patients.

UM171, a molecule that provides hope

 Named “UM171” in honor of the Université de Montréal, first of its kind, the molecule has the capacity to multiply by ten the number of hematopoietic stem cells present in a unit of umbilical cord blood. It was discovered in 2014 by the teams led by Anne Marinier, Principal Investigator and Director of Medicinal Chemistry at the IRIC, and Dr. Sauvageau, Principal Investigator at the IRIC and hematologist at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital (CIUSSS de l’Est-de-l’Île-de-Montréal). This discovery is the result of a collaborative effort on the part of several IRIC teams, including a team of 42 chemists and biologists specializing in drug discovery.

“The discovery of UM171 is a shining example of the efficacy and cohesion of the IRIC’s unique research model. The very promising success of this molecule, obtained in less than 10 years of existence, is certainly an indication of the future discoveries that will emerge at the IRIC” points out Anne Marinier, Principal Investigator and Director of Medicinal Chemistry at the IRIC.

By combining an expertise in basic, translational and applied research, the IRIC’s teams work, whenever possible, to transform each research effort into therapeutic solutions that will benefit patients.

Clinical study

The clinical study conducted at the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital began in February 2016. It tested the ECT-001 technology, owned by ExCellThera Inc., which is a combination of UM171 Molecule and an optimized cell culture system. The clinical study involved 25 patients, between the ages of 19 and 62, most of whom suffer from high-risk acute leukemia. The majority of those patients responded positively to the cell graft and they will all be followed for a period of 3 years.

The technology developed and the promising results of the clinical trial provide hope for optimizing the treatment of patients suffering from blood cancers including leukemia, myeloma and lymphoma, developing more effective and safer stem cell transplantations for thousands of patients.

 A collaborative effort

 Such progress is the result of the involvement of several partners and collaborators who, over the years, have supported the initiative, from research project to clinical application. Mention should be made of the Centre of Excellence for Cellular Therapy at the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital (CIUSSS de l’Est- de-l’Île-de-Montréal), the British Columbia Cancer Agency, the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in Seattle, IRICoR, the CCRM, Héma-Québec, the University of Toronto, the Stem Cell Network, the Réseau de thérapie cellulaire et tissulaire du Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé, the National Institutes of Health (U.S.), the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.