Discovery and clinical introduction of first-in-class imipridone ONC201.
ABSTRACT: ONC201 is the founding member of a novel class of anti-cancer compounds called imipridones that is currently in Phase II clinical trials in multiple advanced cancers. Since the discovery of ONC201 as a p53-independent inducer of TRAIL gene transcription, preclinical studies have determined that ONC201 has anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects against a broad range of tumor cells but not normal cells. The mechanism of action of ONC201 involves engagement of PERK-independent activation of the integrated stress response, leading to tumor upregulation of DR5 and dual Akt/ERK inactivation, and consequent Foxo3a activation leading to upregulation of the death ligand TRAIL. ONC201 is orally active with infrequent dosing in animals models, causes sustained pharmacodynamic effects, and is not genotoxic. The first-in-human clinical trial of ONC201 in advanced aggressive refractory solid tumors confirmed that ONC201 is exceptionally well-tolerated and established the recommended phase II dose of 625 mg administered orally every three weeks defined by drug exposure comparable to efficacious levels in preclinical models. Clinical trials are evaluating the single agent efficacy of ONC201 in multiple solid tumors and hematological malignancies and exploring alternative dosing regimens. In addition, chemical analogs that have shown promise in other oncology indications are in pre-clinical development. In summary, the imipridone family that comprises ONC201 and its chemical analogs represent a new class of anti-cancer therapy with a unique mechanism of action being translated in ongoing clinical trials.
Project description:Anti-cancer small molecule ONC201 upregulates the integrated stress response (ISR) and acts as a dual inactivator of Akt/ERK, leading to TRAIL gene activation. ONC201 is under investigation in multiple clinical trials to treat patients with cancer. Given the unique imipridone core chemical structure of ONC201, we synthesized a series of analogs to identify additional compounds with distinct therapeutic properties. Several imipridones with a broad range of in vitro potencies were identified in an exploration of chemical derivatives. Based on in vitro potency in human cancer cell lines and lack of toxicity to normal human fibroblasts, imipridones ONC206 and ONC212 were prioritized for further study. Both analogs inhibited colony formation, and induced apoptosis and downstream signaling that involves the integrated stress response and Akt/ERK, similar to ONC201. Compared to ONC201, ONC206 demonstrated improved inhibition of cell migration while ONC212 exhibited rapid kinetics of activity. ONC212 was further tested in >1000 human cancer cell lines in vitro and evaluated for safety and anti-tumor efficacy in vivo. ONC212 exhibited broad-spectrum efficacy at nanomolar concentrations across solid tumors and hematological malignancies. Skin cancer emerged as a tumor type with improved efficacy relative to ONC201. Orally administered ONC212 displayed potent anti-tumor effects in vivo, a broad therapeutic window and a favorable PK profile. ONC212 was efficacious in vivo in BRAF V600E melanoma models that are less sensitive to ONC201. Based on these findings, ONC212 warrants further development as a drug candidate. It is clear that therapeutic utility extends beyond ONC201 to include additional imipridones.
Project description:ONC201 was originally discovered as TNF-Related Apoptosis Inducing Ligand (TRAIL)-inducing compound TIC10. ONC201 appears to act as a selective antagonist of the G protein coupled receptor (GPCR) dopamine receptor D2 (DRD2), and as an allosteric agonist of mitochondrial protease caseinolytic protease P (ClpP). Downstream of target engagement, ONC201 activates the ATF4/CHOP-mediated integrated stress response leading to TRAIL/Death Receptor 5 (DR5) activation, inhibits oxidative phosphorylation via c-myc, and inactivates Akt/ERK signaling in tumor cells. This typically results in DR5/TRAIL-mediated apoptosis of tumor cells; however, DR5/TRAIL-independent apoptosis, cell cycle arrest, or antiproliferative effects also occur. The effects of ONC201 extend beyond bulk tumor cells to include cancer stem cells, cancer associated fibroblasts and immune cells within the tumor microenvironment that can contribute to its efficacy. ONC201 is orally administered, crosses the intact blood brain barrier, and is under evaluation in clinical trials in patients with advanced solid tumors and hematological malignancies. ONC201 has single agent clinical activity in tumor types that are enriched for DRD2 and/or ClpP expression including specific subtypes of high-grade glioma, endometrial cancer, prostate cancer, mantle cell lymphoma, and adrenal tumors. Synergy with radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immune-checkpoint agents has been identified in preclinical models and is being evaluated in clinical trials. Structure-activity relationships based on the core pharmacophore of ONC201, termed the imipridone scaffold, revealed novel potent compounds that are being developed. Imipridones represent a novel approach to therapeutically target previously undruggable GPCRs, ClpP, and innate immune pathways in oncology.
Project description:Systematic genetic interaction profiles can reveal the mechanisms-of-action of bioactive compounds. The imipridone ONC201, which is currently in cancer clinical trials, has been ascribed a variety of different targets. To investigate the genetic dependencies of imipridone action, we screened a genome-wide clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) knockout library in the presence of either ONC201 or its more potent analog ONC212. Loss of the mitochondrial matrix protease CLPP or the mitochondrial intermediate peptidase MIPEP conferred strong resistance to both compounds. Biochemical and surrogate genetic assays showed that impridones directly activate CLPP and that MIPEP is necessary for proteolytic maturation of CLPP into a catalytically competent form. Quantitative proteomic analysis of cells treated with ONC212 revealed degradation of many mitochondrial as well as nonmitochondrial proteins. Prompted by the conservation of ClpP from bacteria to humans, we found that the imipridones also activate ClpP from Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, and Staphylococcus aureus in biochemical and genetic assays. ONC212 and acyldepsipeptide-4 (ADEP4), a known activator of bacterial ClpP, caused similar proteome-wide degradation profiles in S. aureus ONC212 suppressed the proliferation of a number of Gram-positive (S. aureus, B. subtilis, and Enterococcus faecium) and Gram-negative species (E. coli and Neisseria gonorrhoeae). Moreover, ONC212 enhanced the ability of rifampin to eradicate antibiotic-tolerant S. aureus persister cells. These results reveal the genetic dependencies of imipridone action in human cells and identify the imipridone scaffold as a new entry point for antibiotic development.
Project description:Cancer stem cells (CSCs) correlate with recurrence, metastasis and poor survival in clinical studies. Encouraging results from clinical trials of CSC inhibitors have further validated CSCs as therapeutic targets. ONC201 is a first-in-class small molecule imipridone in Phase I/II clinical trials for advanced cancer. We have previously shown that ONC201 targets self-renewing, chemotherapy-resistant colorectal CSCs via Akt/ERK inhibition and DR5/TRAIL induction. In this study, we demonstrate that the anti-CSC effects of ONC201 involve early changes in stem cell-related gene expression prior to tumor cell death induction. A targeted network analysis of gene expression profiles in colorectal cancer cells revealed that ONC201 downregulates stem cell pathways such as Wnt signaling and modulates genes (ID1, ID2, ID3 and ALDH7A1) known to regulate self-renewal in colorectal, prostate cancer and glioblastoma. ONC201-mediated changes in CSC-related gene expression were validated at the RNA and protein level for each tumor type. Accordingly, we observed inhibition of self-renewal and CSC markers in prostate cancer cell lines and patient-derived glioblastoma cells upon ONC201 treatment. Interestingly, ONC201-mediated CSC depletion does not occur in colorectal cancer cells with acquired resistance to ONC201. Finally, we observed that basal expression of CSC-related genes (ID1, CD44, HES7 and TCF3) significantly correlate with ONC201 efficacy in >1000 cancer cell lines and combining the expression of multiple genes leads to a stronger overall prediction. These proof-of-concept studies provide a rationale for testing CSC expression at the RNA and protein level as a predictive and pharmacodynamic biomarker of ONC201 response in ongoing clinical studies.
Project description:Systematic genetic interaction profiles can reveal the mechanism-of-action of bioactive compounds. The imipridone ONC201, which is currently in cancer clinical trials, has been ascribed a variety of different targets. To investigate the genetic dependencies of imipridone action, we screened a genome-wide CRISPR knockout library in the presence of either ONC201 or its more potent analog ONC212. Loss of the mitochondrial matrix protease CLPP or the mitochondrial intermediate peptidase MIPEP conferred strong resistance to both compounds. Biochemical and surrogate genetic assays showed that impridones directly activate CLPP and that MIPEP is necessary for proteolytic maturation of CLPP into a catalytically competent form. Quantitative proteomic analysis of cells treated with ONC212 revealed degradation of many mitochondrial as well as non-mitochondrial proteins. Prompted by the conservation of ClpP from bacteria to humans, we found that the imipridones also activate ClpP from Escherichia coli, B. subtilis and Staphylococcus aureus in biochemical and genetic assays. ONC212 and acyldepsipeptide (ADEP)-4, a known activator of bacterial ClpP, caused similar proteome-wide degradation profiles in S. aureus. ONC212 suppressed the proliferation of a number of Gram-positive (S. aureus, B. subtilis, Enterococcus faecium) and Gram-negative species (E. coli, Neisseria gonorrhoeae). Moreover, ONC212 enhanced the ability of rifampin to eradicate antibiotic-tolerant S. aureus persister cells. These results reveal the genetic dependencies of imipridone action in human cells and identify the imipridone scaffold as a new entry point for antibiotic development. Overall design: Nalm-6 cells infected with the EKO sgRNA library (Bertomeu et al. 2017, PMID:29038160), after 7 days of Cas9 induction with doxycycline, were exposed to either 150nM ONC212, 10uM ONC201/TIC10 or media only for 8 days. sgRNA abundance was then assessed by high-throughput sequencing. Cells exposed to media only for two days served as controls.
Project description:Imipridones constitute a novel class of antitumor agents. Here, we report that a second-generation imipridone, ONC212, possesses highly increased antitumor activity compared to the first-generation compound ONC201. In vitro studies using human acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cell lines, primary AML, and normal bone marrow (BM) samples demonstrate that ONC212 exerts prominent apoptogenic effects in AML, but not in normal BM cells, suggesting potential clinical utility. Imipridones putatively engage G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and/or trigger an integrated stress response in hematopoietic tumor cells. Comprehensive GPCR screening identified ONC212 as activator of an orphan GPCR GPR132 and G?q signaling, which functions as a tumor suppressor. Heterozygous knock-out of GPR132 decreased the antileukemic effects of ONC212. ONC212 induced apoptogenic effects through the induction of an integrated stress response, and reduced MCL-1 expression, a known resistance factor for BCL-2 inhibition by ABT-199. Oral administration of ONC212 inhibited AML growth in vivo and improved overall survival in xenografted mice. Moreover, ONC212 abrogated the engraftment capacity of patient-derived AML cells in an NSG PDX model, suggesting potential eradication of AML initiating cells, and was highly synergistic in combination with ABT-199. Collectively, our results suggest ONC212 as a novel therapeutic agent for AML.
Project description:Pancreatic cancer is chemo-resistant and metastasizes early with an overall five-year survival of ?8.2%. First-in-class imipridone ONC201 is a small molecule in clinical trials with anti-cancer activity. ONC212, a fluorinated-ONC201 analogue, shows preclinical efficacy in melanoma and hepatocellular-cancer models. We investigated efficacy of ONC201 and ONC212 against pancreatic cancer cell lines (N=16 including 9 PDX-cell lines). We demonstrate ONC212 efficacy in 4 in-vivo models including ONC201-resistant tumors. ONC212 is active in pancreatic cancer as single agent or in combination with 5-fluorouracil, irinotecan, oxaliplatin or RTK inhibitor crizotinib. Based on upregulation of pro-survival IGF1-R in some tumors, we found an active combination of ONC212 with inhibitor AG1024, including in vivo. We show a rationale for targeting pancreatic cancer using ONC212 combined with targeting the unfolded-protein response and ER chaperones such as GRP78/BIP. Our results lay the foundation to test imipridones, anti-cancer agents, in pancreatic cancer, that is refractory to most drugs.
Project description:ONC201, founding member of the imipridone class of small molecules, is currently being evaluated in advancer cancer clinical trials. We explored single agent and combinatorial efficacy of ONC201 in preclinical models of hematological malignancies. ONC201 demonstrated (GI50 1-8 µM) dose- and time-dependent efficacy in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), Burkitt's lymphoma, anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL), Hodgkin's lymphoma (nodular sclerosis) and multiple myeloma (MM) cell lines including cells resistant to standard of care (dexamethasone in MM) and primary samples. ONC201 induced caspase-dependent apoptosis that involved activation of the integrated stress response (ATF4/CHOP) pathway, inhibition of Akt phosphorylation, Foxo3a activation, downregulation of cyclin D1, IAP and Bcl-2 family members. ONC201 synergistically reduced cell viability in combination with cytarabine and 5-azacytidine in AML cells. ONC201 combined with cytarabine in a Burkitt's lymphoma xenograft model induced tumor growth inhibition that was superior to either agent alone. ONC201 synergistically combined with bortezomib in MM, MCL and ALCL cells and with ixazomib or dexamethasone in MM cells. ONC201 combined with bortezomib in a Burkitt's lymphoma xenograft model reduced tumor cell density and improved CHOP induction compared to either agent alone. These results serve as a rationale for ONC201 single-agent trials in relapsed/refractory acute leukemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, MM and combination trial with dexamethasone in MM, provide pharmacodynamic biomarkers and identify further synergistic combinatorial regimens that can be explored in the clinic.
Project description:ONC201 is a first-in-class, orally active antitumor agent that upregulates cytotoxic TRAIL pathway signaling in cancer cells. ONC201 has demonstrated safety and preliminary efficacy in a first-in-human trial in which patients were dosed every 3 weeks. We hypothesized that dose intensification of ONC201 may impact antitumor efficacy. We discovered that ONC201 exerts dose- and schedule-dependent effects on tumor progression and cell death signaling in vivo. With dose intensification, we note a potent anti-metastasis effect and inhibition of cancer cell migration and invasion. Our preclinical results prompted a change in ONC201 dosing in all open clinical trials. We observed accumulation of activated NK+ and CD3+ cells within ONC201-treated tumors and that NK cell depletion inhibits ONC201 efficacy in vivo, including against TRAIL/ONC201-resistant Bax-/- tumors. Immunocompetent NCR1-GFP mice, in which NK cells express GFP, demonstrated GFP+ NK cell infiltration of syngeneic MC38 colorectal tumors. Activation of primary human NK cells and increased degranulation occurred in response to ONC201. Coculture experiments identified a role for TRAIL in human NK-mediated antitumor cytotoxicity. Preclinical results indicate the potential utility for ONC201 plus anti-PD-1 therapy. We observed an increase in activated TRAIL-secreting NK cells in the peripheral blood of patients after ONC201 treatment. The results offer what we believe to be a unique pathway of immune stimulation for cancer therapy.
Project description:Glioblastoma is an aggressive central nervous system tumor with a 5-year-survival rate of less than 10%. Patients diagnosed with the disease are treated with surgery, radiation and temozolomide chemotherapy. Despite survival benefits, patients eventually relapse. There is a need for new treatments with improved efficacy. Imipridone ONC201 is a small molecule originally identified as a TNF-related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL)-inducing compound. ONC201 has the unique ability to induce expression of both pro-death ligand TRAIL and its receptor DR5 through engagement of the cellular integrated stress response (ISR) pathway. Arrillaga-Romany et al. report early results from futility analysis of a phase II clinical trial of ONC201 in 17 patients with recurrent or refractory glioblastoma conducted at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. The results are promising, as ONC201 shows preliminary signs of efficacy. Further testing of ONC201 in an expansion cohort of patients with glioblastoma is ongoing.