While idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is the most common type of pulmonary fibrosis, it is still considered a rare disease in need of new treatments.
However, researchers are preparing to study a new treatment, MYMD-1, that has the opportunity to tackle some of the common symptoms and issues IPF patients face.
In honor of Rare Disease Day, Chris Chapman, MD, PhD, President and Chief Medical Officer of MyMD Pharmaceuticals, explained in an interview with HCPLive® how the treatment will help this patient population and what some of the challenges IPF patients face.
HCPLive: Can you describe the treatment you are studying for IPF?
Chapman: For IPF, our product, MYMD-1, targets the root causes of inflammation and it is a selected inhibitor of transforming growth factor-beta, a driver for fibrosis, and of tumor necrosis factor.
We did some artificial intelligence work where we took a look at normal cells and the effects of MYMD-1 and what came out of that was that MYMD-1 is similar structure to Pirfenidone, which is the drug that’s approved for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
The data shows that out of 4500 compounds that our compound MYMD-1 was superior to Pirfenidone, and other drugs on the market for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, like methenamine.
When we put our compound up against both of those, MyMD-1 came out superior. This is because those two products are anti-fibrotic, and they affect the collagen in wound healing and in fibrosis.
What MYMD-1 does as a tumor necrosis inhibitor and anti-inflammatory is we hit both.
The idea in the disease model now with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is that its fibrotic diseases and inflammatory diseases. And if you can target it now with, say a combination of anti-fibrotic products and anti-inflammatory products or things of that nature so that you have a better chance of helping those patients with the disease.
And because the prevalence is under 100,000 cases in the U.S. We think it’s a great opportunity for our company to take a look at their product and the, I mean, if you look at all the products targeting the disease in the world maybe ours can provide a sense of consistency against all those fibrotic diseases.
HCPLive: How important is it for patients with a rare disease like IPF to have multiple treatment options with new drugs coming on the market in case they aren’t responding to the existing stable of drugs?
Chapman: Well, it’s very important because if you watch the disease of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis for years, the prevalence is about 100,000, but if you are a patient with it, and you’ve been taking these injections or monoclonal antibodies that have different side effects, there’s no really good treatment.
It’s a hard problem as it’s like a chronic disease of the lungs with patients having difficulty breathing for long periods of time. So, if we can bring in new products such as MyMD-1 and new research, it’s for the better.
A new product like ours that you can take by mouth instead of taking injections, has a better chance for some of those patients who have long term chronic illnesses.
HCPLive: What are some of the challenges IPF patients face and how would this treatment improve their symptoms and overall quality of life?
Chapman: One of the issues that they have is the inflammatory process. We understand the fibrosis part, where the scarring within the non-tissue, the fibrosis, the wound healing and the collagen within the fibrosis deposit more damage into the tissues, as it progresses over the years.
The drug that patients take, a monoclonal antibody, has significant side effects. We don’t see these side effects when patients take the drug orally.
You are still treating the same disease and with the same product orally. Over the last 10 or 15 years, there was nothing on the market for this until they came up with the Pirfenidone and methenamine.
We think that if you can add anti-inflammatory, which wasn’t taken care of, they only looked at the fibrosis while chronic inflammation is the issue, and cause of chronic inflammation in the lungs now chronic inflammation in other parts of the body affects the heart tissue.
It affects our circulatory system, it affects a lot of different parts of the body. The inflammation part.
We think that adding an anti-inflammatory to the chronic inflammation and also the fibrosis will give these patients a better way to get up and move around so they can breathe better and have better systems to operate as they will follow.
HCPLive: How important is it for researchers to conduct clinical trials for rare diseases to potentially learn both whether or not a specific drug is safe and effective, but also to potentially learn more about the disease itself that could down the road lead to better treatments as well?
Chapman: I think that you have to look at some of these pharmaceutical companies that take a look at rare diseases. In the rare diseases, because it’s a handful of cases, you really manage the entire case, looking at other indications that are related to the rare disease.
It’s really important to take a look. Because we start looking at rare diseases you look at the enzyme protein models that affect things right at the genes, the genomics, and you find other issues within these diseases that you can start to treat with other products.
A lot of companies specialize in that, I think is wonderful because you find out a lot, they have a system soldered in these rare diseases, and you’re looking at one but once you start to study one you find other ways, and other medicines that help some of these patients.
HCPLive: How important is it to dedicate an entire day of advocacy for rare diseases like Rare Disease Day?
Chapman: If you can set aside a day and call it a rare disease day, all these young patients, young kids, adults I mean, it makes them feel that we’re thinking about them. The thought that this type of research could help move us forward, and that when our kids come through that there may be better products on the market so you feel good.
As you know, for years when physicians did research we actually did more research on men than women, so now we look at cardiac disease and women, they complain that we didn’t really specify that same thing but rare diseases.
And I just think that it’s so important to have a day, and that everyone would write this and realize that research institutions are working just as hard for a variety of solutions against rare diseases and their complexities in the world. I think it’s extremely important for everybody to feel good about what we’re going to do together.