Preclinical evaluation of the imipridone family, analogs of clinical stage anti-cancer small molecule ONC201, reveals potent anti-cancer effects of ONC212
Anti-cancer small molecule ONC201 upregulates the integrated stress response (ISR) and acts as a dual inactivator of Akt/ERK, leading to TRAIL gene activation. ONC201 is under investigation in multiple clinical trials to treat patients with cancer. Given the unique imipridone core chemical structure of ONC201, we synthesized a series of analogs to identify additional compounds with distinct therapeutic properties. Several imipridones with a broad range of in vitro potencies were identified in an exploration of chemical derivatives. Based on in vitro potency in human cancer cell lines and lack of toxicity to normal human fibroblasts, imipridones ONC206 and ONC212 were prioritized for further study. Both analogs inhibited colony formation, and induced apoptosis and downstream signaling that involves the integrated stress response and Akt/ERK, similar to ONC201. Compared to ONC201, ONC206 demonstrated improved inhibition of cell migration while ONC212 exhibited rapid kinetics of activity. ONC212 was further tested in >1000 human cancer cell lines in vitro and evaluated for safety and anti-tumor efficacy in vivo. ONC212 exhibited broad-spectrum efficacy at nanomolar concentrations across solid tumors and hematological malignancies. Skin cancer emerged as a tumor type with improved efficacy relative to ONC201. Orally administered ONC212 displayed potent anti-tumor effects in vivo, a broad therapeutic window and a favorable PK profile. ONC212 was efficacious in vivo in BRAF V600E melanoma models that are less sensitive to ONC201. Based on these findings, ONC212 warrants further development as a drug candidate. It is clear that therapeutic utility extends beyond ONC201 to include additional imipridones.