Background: IRAK4 kinase activity is required for toll-like receptor (TLR) and interleukin-1 receptor (IL-1R) signaling in a variety of myeloid and lymphoid cell types. Recruitment of IRAK4 to these receptors and its subsequent activation is facilitated by the MYD88 adaptor protein. The MYD88-L265P activating mutation is prevalent in DLBCL (~30% in ABC subtype) and WM (>90%). MYD88- L265P leads to constitutive activation of NF-κB signaling that is associated with worse prognosis. In MCL, dysregulation of B-cell receptor (BCR) and TLR pathway components correlate with constitutive NF-κB signaling.

CA-4948 is a small molecule inhibitor of IRAK4 kinase that modulates the TLR and IL-1R signaling cascades. CA-4948 is being developed as a novel agent for the treatment of hematologic cancers with dysregulated IRAK4 signaling and is currently in a Ph1 trial for R/R NHL (clinicaltrials.gov NCT03328078). In preclinical studies, CA-4948 demonstrates pharmacodynamic and antitumor activity in in vitro and in vivo models with MYD88 alterations, and was previously shown to have a synergistic anti-tumor activity when combined with venetoclax in vivo. To further guide CA-4948's clinical development in NHL, we report here nonclinical studies exploring a twice-daily dosing schedule in DLBCL xenograft models. We also investigated the use of an ex-vivo whole-blood TLR-stimulation assay as a surrogate PD response biomarker. Additionally, we tested the efficacy of CA-4948 alone or in combination with the BTK inhibitor ibrutinib in DLBCL and MCL tumor models. Furthermore, preliminary PK and PD data from the first-in-human Ph1 trial are presented.

Methods: Mice bearing DLBCL PDX tumors were orally administered CA-4948 twice-daily (BID) with 37.5 or 75 mg/kg doses and once-daily (QD) with 75 or 150 mg/kg doses. The ex-vivo whole blood assay involved TLR-stimulation of blood isolated at various time-points after CA-4948 administration. For the drug combination studies, mice bearing subcutaneous tumors of a MYD88-L265P DLBCL cell line or six MCL cell lines were treated.

Results: (1) CA-4948 exhibited dose-dependent tumor growth inhibition in two DLBCL PDX xenograft tumor models with BID dosing showing equal or enhanced efficacy as compared to the equivalent total daily QD dose. The BID schedule was well tolerated with only a slight body weight loss as compared to the equivalent total QD dose schedule. (2) Overall, in mouse, the ex-vivo blood assay showed a time and exposure dependent relationship with the level of cytokine production after TLR-stimulation. A similar CA-4948 dose-dependent inhibition of TLR-stimulated cytokine production was observed in healthy human whole blood samples in which CA-4948 was spiked into the blood sample. Based on these findings, CA-4948 exposure levels capable of inhibiting TLR-stimulation are anticipated to be readily achievable in clinical studies. This was also supported by preliminary clinical PD data showing post treatment, on-target, reduced release of NF-κB-associated cytokines in 2 of 4 patients treated so far. (3) In xenograft efficacy studies using MCL models, single agent CA-4948 and ibrutinib exhibited anti-tumor activity and showed an additive effect when combined in the majority of the models known to have BCR-driven constitutive canonical NF-kB signaling (REC-1, MINO, and JeKo-1). Interestingly, neither CA-4948, ibrutinib, nor the combination had anti-tumor activity in Z-138 and GRANTA-591 xenograft models, consistent with these cell lines having activated NF-κB through the alternative NIK signaling pathway. (4) The human QD PK data (n=4) demonstrated that CA-4948: was rapidly absorbed, Tmax 1-3 hr, and t1/2 of 3.6 -6.8 hr. The bioavailability and exposure, as assessed by Cmax and AUC, is within the expected range compared to non-clinical PK and did not show any evidence of accumulation after QD dosing for 15 consecutive days.

Conclusion: These results provide a rationale for CA-4948 BID dosing and incorporating the use of an ex-vivo whole-blood TLR-stimulation assay as a surrogate PD response biomarker, the former of which will be evaluated in the current Ph1 dose escalation soon and the latter of which is currently being implemented in the Ph1 trial for patients with advanced NHL. The murine xenograft results further support exploration of CA-4948 as monotherapy and in combination with canonical and alternative NF-κB pathway-targeted agents in DLBCL and MCL.


Booher:Curis, Inc: Employment, Equity Ownership. Patel:Juno Therapeutics: Consultancy; Pharmacyclics/Janssen: Speakers Bureau; Genentech: Consultancy, Speakers Bureau; AstraZeneca: Consultancy, Research Funding, Speakers Bureau; Celgene: Consultancy; Sunesis Pharmaceuticals: Consultancy. Lunning:Celgene: Consultancy; AbbVie: Consultancy; Astra-Zeneca: Consultancy; Bayer: Consultancy; Genentech: Consultancy; Genzyme: Consultancy; Genentech: Consultancy; Gilead: Consultancy; Janssen: Consultancy; Juno: Consultancy; Kite: Consultancy; Portola: Consultancy; Seattle Genetics: Consultancy; Spectrum: Consultancy; TG Therapeutics: Consultancy; Verastem: Consultancy. Samson:Curis, Inc: Employment, Equity Ownership. Atoyan:Curis, Inc: Employment, Equity Ownership. Ma:Curis, Inc: Employment, Equity Ownership. Xu:Curis, Inc: Employment, Equity Ownership. Dellarocca:Curis, Inc: Employment, Equity Ownership. Modafferi:Curis, Inc: Employment, Equity Ownership. Borek:Curis, Inc: Employment, Equity Ownership. Zhang:Curis, Inc: Employment, Equity Ownership. Parker:Curis, Inc: Employment, Equity Ownership. Whitney:Curis, Inc: Employment, Equity Ownership. Wang:Curis, Inc: Employment, Equity Ownership. Tuck:Curis, Inc: Employment, Equity Ownership. Younes:Merck: Honoraria; Roche: Honoraria, Research Funding; Janssen: Honoraria, Research Funding; Pharmacyclics: Research Funding; Celgene: Honoraria; Abbvie: Honoraria; Seattle Genetics: Honoraria; Sanofi: Honoraria; Takeda: Honoraria; Incyte: Honoraria; Bayer: Honoraria; BMS: Honoraria, Research Funding; J&J: Research Funding; Novartis: Research Funding; Genentech: Research Funding; Astra Zeneca: Research Funding; Curis: Research Funding.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.