High-grade NMIBC is a highly aggressive form of bladder cancer. TURBT is the initial treatment of choice for high grade NMIBC; however, the high rates of recurrence and significant risk of progression to muscle-invasive tumors are particularly dangerous. Bladder removal can be the first treatment of choice for young, otherwise healthy patients with high-grade disease or for patients who cannot tolerate BCG. BCG, an immunotherapy-based drug, is the current standard of care as an adjuvant therapy post-resection in high-grade tumors. However, treatment with BCG is associated with severe side effects, as evidenced by a Black Box warning on the label.
UroGen is conducting research with UGN-201 (VESIMUNE™) (imiquimod), an immune-modulation product candidate and is collecting data to assess its potential as a treatment of high-grade NMIBC. The clinical research is evaluating whether UGN-201 may offer an alternative to the current standard of care (i.e. the BCG adjuvant, post TURBT treatment of high-grade NMIBC). UGN-201’s active ingredient is Imiquimod, an imidazoquinoline, synthetic immune modulator, which is believed to specifically target TLR7, which is expressed in bladder cancer cells. Toll-like receptors are pattern recognition receptors whose importance in stimulating innate and adaptive immunity has been established by recent studies and approval by the FDA of various cancer immunotherapies. Toll-like receptors are able to sense microbial components as well as host-derived endogenous molecules released by injured tissues and play a critical role in defending against invading pathogens.
Imiquimod, in its topical formulation, is FDA approved for several indications, including superficial basal cell carcinoma. UGN-201 is a liquid formulation of Imiquimod for intravesical administration that has been optimized for delivery in the urinary tract.
Unlike our other products under investigation, UGN-201 does not use our RTGel technology. The Company is conducting research to assess whether UGN-201 may elicit an adaptive immune response in the presence of released bladder cancer antigens, which may translate into a long lasting acquired immune response.
Another area of research that the Company is pursuing is the combination of UGN-201 with immune checkpoint inhibitors. Such a combination could further increase the adaptive immune response and potentially represent a viable alternative to BCG for the adjuvant treatment of high-grade NMIBC or UTUC.
The Company obtained Orphan Drug Designation for UGN-201 for the treatment of CIS in the bladder. UroGen has an active IND for UGN-201, which has been effective since 2013.