Atara Biotherapeutics, a San Francisco-based biopharmaceutical company announced that the U.S FDA granted orphan drug designation for its activin inhibitor, STM 434, for ovarian cancer. STM 434 is a fusion protein that binds Activin A and other ligands of the ActR2B receptor. Activin has been shown to be involved in the growth and proliferation of ovarian cancer and other tumors. Activin expression is one of the few biomarkers associated with larger tumor volume and poorer outcomes, including shortened survival, in a variety of malignancies including ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the U.S.. According to the National Cancer Institute, there were an estimated 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer and 14,030 ovarian cancer deaths in the U.S. in 2013. Surgery and cytotoxic chemotherapies are widely used to treat ovarian cancer; however, the outcomes have changed little in the 40 years.