* Anti-inflammatory antibody shows promise in early studies
* Experimental drug blocks cytokine protein called IL-17A
* Novartis says compound could compete with anti-TNF class
By Kate Kelland
LONDON, Oct 6 An experimental new antibody drug
from Novartis NOVN.VX has proved safe and effective in
treating three diseases involving inflammation -- scaly skin,
arthritis and a sore eye condition, data showed on Wednesday.
Novartis researchers said the early-stage trials suggested
the drug, called secukinumab, could eventually rival a class of
drugs called TNF-blockers that also treat arthritis and other
types of inflammation in various autoimmune diseases.
"Of course, the differentiation to anti-TNF drugs will have
to be studied, but based on the pathways and what we know about
the science from our pre-clinical work, one of our hopes ... is
that this (drug) should have a better infection safety profile,"
said Dhavalkumar Patel of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical
Research in Switzerland, one of the senior scientists working on
Small proteins called cytokines are key drivers of
inflammation and the IL-17A cytokine is a prime suspect in
inflammatory diseases, but its exact role remains unclear, the
scientists explained in a report of their study published in the
journal Science Translational Medicine.
To see if blocking IL-17A would reduce inflammation,
Novartis researchers in Europe and the United States used
secukinumab to fight IL-17A in 60 patients with rheumatoid
arthritis -- swelling of joints in the hands and feet -- or with
the skin disease psoriasis, or eye inflammation called uveitis.
All three diseases involve inflammation and are thought to
have an autoimmune component, in which the body's immune system
uses inflammation as a way to defend itself from its own cells,
attacking its own tissue.
In a summary of the results of the Phase I/IIa studies, the
researchers said they found improvement in all three groups.
The psoriasis patients had reduced scaly skin patches and
lower production of inflammatory proteins, the joints of
rheumatoid arthritis patients were less swollen, and uveitis
patients had less eye inflammation and minor vision improvement.
"These encouraging results set the stage for larger clinical
trials of secukinumab as a potential treatment for inflammatory
diseases," Patel and colleagues wrote in the study.
Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder which
varies in severity from minor patches to complete body coverage.
It and arthritis can currently be treated with drugs that
inhibit a protein known as tumour necrosis factor, or TNF, such
as Amgen's (AMGN.O) Enbrel, Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ.N) Remicade
and Abbott Laboratories' (ABT.N) Humira.
Patel said Novartis was also investigating secukinumab in
other diseases, including psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing
spondylitis, two other conditions associated with psoriasis and
"We're seeing good results in other diseases too, so our
hope is that this particular compound will have a lot of
indications," he said.
(Editing by Louise Heavens)