Background: Activating mutations and oncogenic fusions of the RET receptor tyrosine kinase have been identified in multiple tumor types, including thyroid, lung, breast and colon carcinoma. Furthermore, tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) with anti-RET activity have produced clinical responses in patients whose tumors harbor RET alterations. However, currently available RET inhibitors were initially developed to target kinases other than RET and are only moderately potent against RET, inhibit multiple kinases other than RET or poorly inhibit secondary resistance mutations (e.g. gatekeeper mutations) common to other TKIs.

We have discovered novel, potent and selective RET inhibitors. The resulting compounds exhibit nanomolar potency against wild type RET and select RET mutants, including the KIF5B-RET fusion and V804M gatekeeper mutation, in both enzyme and cellular assays, with minimal activity against highly related kinases. AR025 is representative of this series; the activity of AR025 and related analogs in relevant in vitro and in vivo models will be presented here.

Methods: In vitro and in vivo evaluations, including enzyme and cell-based assays, pharmacokinetic (PK)/pharmacodynamics (PD) correlations, drug metabolism characterization, and non-clinical safety evaluation, were conducted using standard methods. Tumor growth inhibition and PD studies were carried out using subcutaneous allografts of NIH-3T3 cells expressing KIF5B-RET in nude mice.

Results: AR025 demonstrated nanomolar potency against both wild type and mutant RET proteins in enzyme and cellular assays. AR025 had minimal activity against an enzyme panel of >200 diverse kinases and demonstrated >50x cellular selectivity against VEGFR, with similar selectivity against other related kinases. AR025 possessed low intravenous clearance and high oral exposure in mice, rats and dogs. Finally, a single oral dose of 30mg/kg produced more than 90% inhibition of phospho-RET in NIH-3T3-KIF5B-RET mouse allografts, while twice-per-day continuous dosing resulted in greater than 90% tumor growth inhibition. Notably, AR025 was minimally toxic at doses up to 100mg/kg per day.

Conclusions: We have identified a series of potent and selective RET inhibitors with high oral bioavailability and favorable PK properties in animals. One of these, AR025, demonstrated potent inhibition of RET in enzyme and cellular assays, with minimal activity against highly related kinases. In an NIH3T3-KIF5B-RET allograft model, AR025 effectively inhibited phospho-RET and caused dramatic tumor growth inhibition without significant toxicity. The identification of potent and selective RET inhibitors with significant in vivo activity and minimal toxicity may overcome the limitations of currently available inhibitors with anti-RET activity.

Citation Format: Barbara J. Brandhuber, Nisha Nanda, Julia Haas, Karyn Bouhana, Lance Williams, Shannon Winski, Michael Burkard, Brian Tuch, Kevin Ebata, Jennifer Low, Francis Sullivan, Lauren Hanson, Tony Morales, Guy Vigers, Jessica Gaffney, Ross D. Wallace, James Blake, Yutong Jiang, S. Michael Rothenberg, Steven Andrews. Identification and characterization of highly potent and selective RET kinase inhibitors for the treatment of RET-driven cancers. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference: Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics; 2015 Nov 5-9; Boston, MA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Mol Cancer Ther 2015;14(12 Suppl 2):Abstract nr B192.