Hepion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:HEPA) published a new research study in mice where rencofilstat prevented the growth of human hepatitis C virus (“HCV”)-associated liver tumors.
HCV-infected mice developed small liver nodules at 12 weeks post-infection that progressed to very large tumors by 24 weeks post-infection. Daily rencofilstat treatment was initiated at week 0, 12, or 16.
Rencofilstat administered at week 0 completely prevented hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development, likely due to the drug’s blocking of HCV infection, a key driver of HCC.
When initiated at week 12, rencofilstat-treated mice had no visible nodules or tumors at week 30, suggesting the drug completely regressed small cancerous nodules.
When initiated at week 16, rencofilstat-treated mice had significantly decreased tumor burden at week 30, which also indicated preventative or regressive anti-tumor activity.
Rencofilstat was then compared to the anti-HCV agents sofosbuvir and velpatasvir to investigate whether some of rencofilstat’s anti-HCC effects occurred independent of its anti-HCV activity.
Sofosbuvir, velpatasvir and rencofilstat treatments initiated at week 16 all eliminated HCV infection. However, only rencofilstat decreased tumors at week 30. Sofosbuvir- and velpatasvir-treated mice developed the same tumor burden as control mice, compared to an 80% lower tumor burden in rencofilstat-treated mice.
“These results highlight one of rencofilstat’s greatest strengths, which is the ability to exert pleiotropic effects that can be harnessed to treat multiple diseases,” Dr. Daren Ure, Hepion’s CSO, said in a statement.
“This contrasts with highly selective drugs that target single mechanisms, such as the currently available anti-HCV drugs that do not effectively treat liver cancer arising from HCV infection. We believe that rencofilstat is the ideal treatment for this kind of cancer as it stops viral replication and suppresses cancer through separate and complementary pathways,” he added.
Dr. Robert Foster, Hepion’s CEO, commented, “The antiviral, anti-cancer, and antifibrotic activities of rencofilstat address many of the most deadly and prevalent diseases affecting people today. Not only could rencofilstat have an enormous impact on human health, but the investment growth opportunities associated with treating these high-need, global-scale diseases are equally large.”