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The investigational monoclonal antibody amatuximab (development code: MORAb-009), has been granted orphan drug designation (ODD) for the treatment of malignant mesothelioma by the European Commission.
Malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects an estimated 1 in 50,000 (0.2/10,000) people per year in Europe. Studies have shown highest incidence in the UK and Ireland and lowest in Eastern Europe. This aggressive form of lung cancer is caused by asbestos exposure and despite a dramatic decrease in asbestos use since the mid-70s its incidence is expected to increase.,
Amatuximab has high affinity and specificity for mesothelin, a protein which is overexpressed in people with malignant mesothelioma. Amatuximab was discovered and developed through Morphotek, a subsidiary wholly owned by Eisai.
"Eisai is dedicated to providing new options for people with difficult-to-treat diseases. The ODD for amatuximab highlights the need for new effective treatments for people with malignant mesothelioma and the potential for this investigational drug," says Gary Hendler, President & CEO Eisai EMEA & Russia.
Nick Nicolaides, President and Chief Executive Officer at Morphotek, commented: "We are extremely pleased that amatuximab has received ODD for the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma in Europe. This reinforces our commitment to develop safe and effective treatment options for patients suffering from an extremely invasive but rare disease."
ODD is for medicines developed for the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of rare diseases that are very serious or life-threatening. In the European Union (EU), a disease is defined as rare if it affects fewer than five in 10,000 people across the EU.
The development of amatuximab underscores Eisai's human health care mission, the company's commitment to provide innovative solutions in disease prevention, cure and care for the health and wellbeing of people worldwide. Eisai is committed to the therapeutic area of oncology and addressing the unmet medical needs of patients and their families.
Amatuximab is a chimeric immunoglobulin G-1-kappa (IgG1/κ) monoclonal antibody with high affinity and specificity for mesothelin, a glycoprotein currently considered an important target of mesothelioma treatment, due to its overexpression on tumour cells.
About Malignant Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and invasive form of lung cancer which originates from mesothelial cells in the inner lining of the pleural, peritoneal and pericardial cavities.
The primary cause of malignant mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. Symptoms of mesothelioma are unspecific and this causes significant delay in diagnosis. The median survival from the time of diagnosis is 9-12 months.
 Calculated from; Seisling S, et al. Rare thoracic cancers, including peritoneum mesothelioma. Eur J Cancer. 2012; 48(7):949–60 and Musk AW, et al. Predicting survival in malignant mesothelioma. Eur Resp J. 2011;38(6):1420-4. Calculated using the Pisani method; Pisani P, Bray F, Parkin M. Estimates of the world-wide prevalence of cancer for 25 sites in the adult population. Int J of Cancer. 2002;97(1):72–81
 National Cancer Intelligence Network. Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. Last accessed January 2014
 Riaz, S.P et al. Mesothelioma incidence projections. Kings College London.
 Regulation (EC) No 141/2000 of the European Parliament and of the Council. Official Journal of the European Communities. Last accessed 14 January 2014
 Clinical Trials.gov. http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT01413451. Last accessed 2 January 2014
 Robinson BW et al. Malignant mesothelioma. Lancet. 2005; 366: 397-408
Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release. Click 'references' tab above for source.
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18 Apr. 2014. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/271592>
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