A small pretzel-shaped device designed as a novel approach for the treatment of bladder cancer attracted Janssen Oncology to TARIS Biomedical in 2019 and ultimately led to Janssen’s acquisition of the privately held biotechnology company. The acquisition deepens Janssen’s expertise and commitment in bladder cancer and helps further differentiate the portfolio through the application of TARIS’ innovative technology.
The TARIS system is a first-in-class clinical stage platform to evaluate novel, locally delivered therapeutics to patients with bladder cancer, and potentially other types of cancer. It is a silicone-based delivery device that allows for the continuous release of medication directly to tumors in the bladder.
The technology is designed to address some of the challenges of bladder cancer that have seen limited therapeutic advances for decades. “Despite allowing direct access to tumors, the bladder is remarkably effective at eliminating foreign material, which creates significant challenges in delivering therapeutics to the bladder,” said Dennis Giesing, Ph.D., Senior Director, TARIS Research, who was instrumental in designing the system. “In early studies, we found the pretzel shape was uniquely successful at not triggering the foreign body response while still delivering effective doses of therapy and avoiding systemic toxicities.”
Side effects are a serious issue in treating patients with bladder cancer. “Patients tend to be older and frailer and have more comorbidities,” said Chris Cutie, M.D., MBA, Global Medical Head, TARIS. “Traditional therapies can involve chemotherapy and radiation, as well as surgical removal of the bladder. Many patients are either unfit for or choose to opt out of these procedures. The TARIS system may allow us to place chemotherapeutics and targeted therapies in the bladder at relatively high concentrations, beyond what could be achieved if the drugs were given orally or infused.”
|Chris Cutie, M.D.
Global Medical Head, TARIS
|Dennis Giesing, Ph.D.
Senior Director, TARIS Research
Bladder cancer also is characterized by a high degree of genetic mutations, resulting in many different types of bladder cancer, sometimes occurring in the same patient. “We believe that the TARIS system may provide a unique opportunity to deliver combination therapies in a tailored approach to simultaneously treat multiple tumor types,” said Giesing.
The TARIS technology arose from research conducted at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and the company was formed in 2008. TARIS made great progress in understanding the biology of the bladder and pursuing a vision to eliminate bladder cancer. “Our hope was that by delivering reliably potent doses of treatments for weeks to months, we could intercept the disease and eradicate it at an early stage when it is localized to the lining of the bladder,” said Cutie.
To do that, TARIS needed to move the program to full development. In a chance meeting during a medical conference, TARIS found a partner in Janssen.
“The scope and scale of Janssen’s vision matches what we wish to achieve,” said Cutie. TARIS was also impressed by Janssen’s professionalism and commitment to patients with bladder cancer, their late-stage development and manufacturing capabilities, and deep expertise in oncology.
Janssen Oncology’s robust pipeline of targeted therapies provides a multitude of possibilities. “Being able to deliver targeted therapies to selectively treat patients with local therapy, while potentially limiting off-target toxicity, may lead to important changes in the way we treat patients,” said Cutie.
Beyond that, combination therapies may enable the tumor to be attacked from two directions – within the bladder and systemically. “As an example, we are combining this technology with a PD-1 inhibitor to evaluate whether we can enhance the anti-tumor effects of both in order to significantly improve on how we treat these cancers,” said Giesing. Janssen is exploring use of the technology for other types of cancer, some potentially beyond the bladder.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to potentially make a difference in patients’ lives,” said Cutie. “We believe that the TARIS technology may significantly affect change in the treatment of bladder cancer and other diseases.”