Morphotek Announces Initiation Of Phase 1 Study Of Next-Generation Farletuzumab Antibody-Drug Conjugate MORAb-202 In Solid Tumors With Folate Receptor Alpha Expression

EXTON, PA, USA I December 4, 2017 I Morphotek®, Inc., a subsidiary of Eisai Inc., announced today that the first patient has been enrolled into a Phase 1 cancer study of Morphotek's antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) MORAb-202.  The Phase 1 trial, which is being conducted in Japan and referred to as MORAb-202-J081-101, is a first-in-human, dose-escalation study evaluating the safety and preliminary efficacy of MORAb-202 in patients with solid tumors that express folate receptor alpha (FRA).  Following completion of the dose-escalation phase used to establish initial safety and optimal dosing, additional subjects will be enrolled to further study safety and preliminary efficacy of MORAb-202 in select tumor types, including triple-negative breast and endometrial cancers. 

MORAb-202 is a novel investigational ADC that uses a cathepsin-cleavable linker to combine investigational farletuzumab with the microtubule inhibitor payload, eribulin.  Farletuzumab is a humanized antibody targeting FRA and has been studied in clinical trials in patients with FRA-expressing tumors.  FRA expression is observed in a large number of cancers, including endometrial, gastric, non-small cell lung, ovarian and triple-negative breast, but is largely absent from normal tissue.  Eribulin mesylate (Halaven®) is approved in the U.S. for the treatment of patients with metastatic breast cancer who have previously received at least two chemotherapeutic regimens for metastatic disease, including an anthracycline and a taxane in either the adjuvant or metastatic setting.

"We are excited to have initiated this Phase 1 study and to transition MORAb-202 into the clinical development stage," said Nicholas Nicolaides, President and CEO of Morphotek. "The combination of farletuzumab linked to the regulatory-approved eribulin has shown robust antitumor effects in a number of preclinical FRA-expressing tumor models, which makes this experimental agent a potential promising ADC candidate for FRA-positive cancers."

About Morphotek
Morphotek®, Inc., a subsidiary of Eisai Inc., is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on developing novel classes of biological-based products to treat cancer, inflammatory and infectious diseases.  Our mission is to develop novel targeted therapies that attack underlying disease pathways, and in oncology indications, that can overcome the immunosuppressive effects by tumors on immune-mediated experimental therapies.  Our diverse pipeline includes clinical-stage monoclonal antibodies to lead targets folate receptor alpha, mesothelin and endosialin, as well as antibody-drug conjugates and bispecific antibodies to undisclosed targets in preclinical development.  Our mission is supported by proprietary cutting-edge technologies in antibody engineering, manufacturing and screening optimization platforms, along with our expertise in developing diagnostics to support patient selection and therapeutic strategy.  For more information, please visit

About Eisai Inc.

At Eisai Inc., human health care (hhc) is our goal. We give our first thought to patients and their families, and helping to increase the benefits health care provides. As the U.S. pharmaceutical subsidiary of Tokyo-based Eisai Co., Ltd., we have a passionate commitment to patient care that is the driving force behind our efforts to discover and develop innovative therapies to help address unmet medical needs.

Eisai is a fully integrated pharmaceutical business that operates in two global business groups: oncology and neurology (dementia-related diseases and neurodegenerative diseases).  Each group functions as an end-to-end global business with discovery, development, and marketing capabilities. Our U.S. headquarters, commercial and clinical development organizations are located in New Jersey; our discovery labs are in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania; and our global demand chain organization resides in Maryland and North Carolina. To learn more about Eisai Inc., please visit us at and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

About Halaven® (eribulin mesylate) Injection
Halaven® (eribulin mesylate) is a microtubule dynamics inhibitor indicated for the treatment of patients with:

  • Metastatic breast cancer who have previously received at least two chemotherapeutic regimens for the treatment of metastatic disease.  Prior therapy should have included an anthracycline and a taxane in either the adjuvant or metastatic setting.
  • Unresectable or metastatic liposarcoma who have received a prior anthracycline-containing regimen.

Discovered and developed by Eisai, eribulin is a synthetic analog of halichondrin B, a natural product that was isolated from the marine sponge Halichondria okadai.  First in the halichondrin class, Halaven is a microtubule dynamics inhibitor.  Eribulin is believed to work primarily via a tubulin-based mechanism that causes prolonged and irreversible mitotic blockage, ultimately leading to apoptotic cell death.  Additionally, in preclinical studies of human breast cancer, eribulin demonstrated complex effects on the tumor biology of surviving cancer cells, including increases in vascular perfusion resulting in reduced tumor hypoxia, and changes in the expression of genes in tumor specimens associated with a change in phenotype, promoting the epithelial phenotype, opposing the mesenchymal phenotype.  Eribulin has also been shown to decrease the migration and invasiveness of human breast cancer cells.

SOURCE: Morphotek

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