The following post is sponsored by Jaguar Health, Inc. It is for informational purposes only and not intended to be investing advice.
Next Tuesday, October 20th, Jaguar Health, Inc. (NASDAQ:JAGX) will hold a live virtual webinar intended for investors that will bring together experts in patient support, medical oncology and pharmaceutical research to discuss the current landscape of supportive care for cancer patients.
The first-in-kind event, Diarrhea Dialogues: Why Bowel Control is Critical to Supportive Care in Cancer, aims to raise awareness in the investor community about the need for supportive care for people experiencing conditions related to chronic lower gastrointestinal tract distress — specifically, the debilitating diarrhea that often results from cancer and cancer therapy, also known as cancer therapy-related diarrhea.
The event will shed light on existing diarrhea management regimens, their associated limitations and impact on patient comfort and quality-of-life and Jaguar’s related ongoing drug development program of interest to investors and the business community. Among the scheduled speakers are Kim Thiboldeaux, CEO of the Cancer Support Community, sports icon and cancer survivor DeeDee Jonrowe as well as prominent researchers and oncologists with West Cancer Center, Massachusetts General Hospital and St. Luke's Cancer Centre.
Leading the webinar is Jaguar Health founder and CEO Lisa Conte, who recently spoke with Benzinga about the upcoming event as well as how Jaguar Health has made the sourcing and development of a sustainably-derived plant-based, non-opioid medicine with novel mechanisms of action and high patient tolerability the core of their product pipeline.
The company’s lead product, currently-commercialized by its subsidiary Napo Pharmaceuticals, is Mytesi (crofelemer), an FDA-approved, first-in-class, botanically-derived, antisecretory agent indicated for the symptomatic relief of non-infectious diarrhea in adults with HIV/AIDS on antiretroviral therapy. Crofelemer is the only oral plant-based prescription medicine approved under FDA Botanical Guidance.
The company is also pursuing follow‑on indications for infants and children with congenital diarrheal disorders, and in patients experiencing diarrhea related to targeted cancer therapy—for which it is currently undergoing a pivotal phase 3 trial.
“As you can imagine, if you have severe diarrhea, you're not absorbing your targeted therapy and/or oral chemotherapy agents or lifesaving agents the way you're supposed to and many of these patients end up going on de-escalation or drug holidays because they can't manage the diarrhea side effect, which is quite prominent with new targeted therapies, called tyrosine kinase inhibitors and epidermal growth factor receptor antibodies,” explained Conte. “That is the goal here, to really provide education and elevate the importance of managing this symptom, which affects up to 80 percent of cancer patients.”
There is also published data with crofelemer tested for the treatment of IBS and symptomatic relief of both infectious and non-infectious diarrhea.
Indications Of A Greater Need
In elaborating on the purpose of the virtual discussion, Conte framed the event in terms of the larger need of bringing greater awareness to issues of supportive care associated with cancer treatments, in particular, treatments used for long-term cancer-free maintenance. There are currently no physiologically acting antidiarrheal agents tested in and approved for cancer therapy-related diarrhea, so the unmet medical need for addressing diarrhea in patients receiving cancer therapy remains high. For many people on the outside of the patient-care relationship, she asserts, the development or use of medications that address the extended effects of long-term treatment regimens are often overshadowed or dictated by existing higher-profile drug markets.
Conte offered chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV) as a point of comparison.
“CINV is a two-billion-dollar marketplace and there's a lot of awareness of the importance of these side effects,” explained Conte. “Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting agents are typically taken for the first three days of the chemotherapy cycle, whereas diarrhea is a much bigger problem with adjuvant therapy. Patients are managing diarrhea for a year or two as they're on these targeted therapies. Some of the patients we've spoken with recently have talked about diarrhea continuing for years after they are off of the therapy. For others, diarrhea can last 10 years or more—including for the rest of their lives.”
The company practices fair trade with the local and Indigenous communities in South America including those in the Amazon Rainforest. As part of the company’s harvesting program, the Croton lechleri tree and its red bark sap are sustainably harvested.
Image courtesy of Steven R. King
According to Conte, Jaguar Health’s approach to researching and developing its products is tailored to avoid the often myopic process of defining drug discovery through a process of screening assays representing known mechanisms of action.
Instead, Conte explained how the company’s research team has worked for more than 30 years with shamans and healers while conducting field research in the tropical forest regions of Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia and in rainforest regions of the world, including the Amazon Rainforest, to define the active compounds of the plant-based treatments that those cultures have used for centuries to treat specific ailments. By addressing symptom management in humans, the company’s discovery process is not constrained by known mechanisms of action and can work backward to define potentially new ways of treating disease. This process, which Conte describes as low throughput screening, not only produces first-in-class treatments but also creates the opportunity for additional indications focused on the specific symptoms alleviated by the compounds.
“When we say first-in-class novel mechanisms of action, that's really providing an opportunity to think about administering medicine and thinking about diseases, cures and management in completely different ways than drugs that are out there,” said Conte. “To get to a much larger patient population, really blockbuster in terms of the benefits that we can provide to patients all around the world, we need to invest in and study and get approval for the follow-on indications. So, what we call Mytesi is really a pipeline in a product.”
What’s Important For Patients
The upcoming webinar will focus on this theme of bringing together perspectives on cancer supportive care by inviting leading authorities in the cancer treatment ecosystem to discuss the many facets that can create a perfect storm for cancer patients. Speakers will shed light on why discussions between health care providers and patients about cancer therapy-related diarrhea often fail to take place, why this symptom is more prevalent than previously recognized, the limitations of current options to manage diarrhea, and the significant impact that diarrhea can have on cancer patients.
“We have some key opinion leaders who are going to speak about exactly the benefits that I’ve talked about—patient comfort, quality of life and dignity—and ability to maintain therapeutic levels of life-saving cancer therapy, without dose-reductions and/or dose holidays,” Conte said. “We have patients who are going to talk about their own experience and who will focus more on the dignity in patients and getting on with their life. There's going to be a discussion also with caregivers to hear their perspective. It’s important for patients, caregivers, partners and healthcare providers to talk about this problem in order to break the stigma that is associated with diarrhea.”
In addition, Jaguar Health has collected healthcare industry data and patient surveys that reveal lingering needs associated with diarrhea related to cancer treatment. Namely, Conte mentioned data that keys in on the high costs associated with extended cancer treatment symptoms as well as data relating to continued hospitalizations and dehydration that are often unaddressed burdens on the healthcare system associated with this condition.
Conte hopes that this data, which Jaguar Health plans to provide in the near future, as well as the insights offered by the event speakers, will introduce these pressing issues to a larger audience within the investment community.
“It can be hard for a smaller, emerging pharma company to get products, once approved, to all the populations that are in need in all the different parts of the world. We want to partner with the investors and companies that, like us, are committed to bringing to market responsibly harvested plant-based medicines that meet urgent health needs and improve patient care,” Conte said. “If you take care of patients, then the product takes care of itself. This potential product can be important financially because of how important we expect it to be to patients.”
Those in the business and investment communities who are interested in learning more about the free event or registering for a spot can find more information at this link. Attendees are welcome to submit related questions to Jaguar in advance and have their questions answered.