A decade after first identifying SAP as a key protein in human blood that controls routine tissue-related processes from scarring to healing, Texas A&M biologists continue to make encouraging progress in the fight against fibrotic disease, a broad class of chronic conditions associated with an estimated 45% of US deaths per year.
Richard Gomer and Darrell Pilling have collaborated in recent years on several serum amyloid P (SAP)-related advances, from establishing Promedior Inc in 2006 to celebrating its promising preliminary results in early clinical trials involving PRM-151, a recombinant form of SAP.
In a recent 24-week study of 27 patients with myelofibrosis, a life-threatening scarring of the bone marrow, 7 of the patients experienced a 50% reduction of symptoms with PRM-151, while five experienced a reduction in fibrosis. The results have been presented at several conferences and symposia.
“More trials are definitely in the future,” Gomer said. “As for which of the 62 fibrotic diseases will be involved in the next trial, that’s a complicated business decision that depends on potential partners, among other factors.”
Fibrosis occurs when the body’s natural healing mechanism goes haywire and creates dangerously excessive scar tissue in vital organs, resulting in fibrotic diseases. Asthma and cirrhosis are two of the most common fibrotic disorders, and scar tissue in the heart can lead to congestive heart failure.
Regardless of area or system affected, there are common threads among all six dozen related disorders: Each is a painful, debilitating and chronic condition for which neither a cure nor an FDA-approved treatment exists.
“This all started with very basic research,” Gomer said. “The punchline is that this work didn’t come from deliberately trying to find a therapeutic. We probably never would have found one if that had been the case.”
While Promedior plans to conduct additional clinical studies to determine SAP’s potential as an anti-fibrotic therapy, Gomer says his work with the blood protein has gone as far as it can at this point — one at which he’s content simply to see what the future holds.
“It’s almost like a mother bird releasing her hatchling from the nest and seeing where it goes,” Gomer said. “Now, we’re just looking for more birds to raise.”