Heightman et al., “Discovery of ASTX029, A Clinical Candidate Which Modulates the Phosphorylation and Catalytic Activity of ERK1/2”

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Aberrant activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway frequently drives tumor growth, and the ERK1/2 kinases are positioned at a key node in this pathway, making them important targets for therapeutic intervention. Recently, a number of ERK1/2 inhibitors have been advanced to investigational clinical trials in patients with activating mutations in B-Raf proto-oncogene or Ras. Here, we describe the discovery of the clinical candidate ASTX029 (15) through structure-guided optimization of our previously published isoindolinone lead (7). The medicinal chemistry campaign focused on addressing CYP3A4-mediated metabolism and maintaining favorable physicochemical properties. These efforts led to the identification of ASTX029, which showed the desired pharmacological profile combining ERK1/2 inhibition with suppression of phospho-ERK1/2 (pERK) levels, and in addition, it possesses suitable preclinical pharmacokinetic properties predictive of once daily dosing in humans. ASTX029 is currently in a phase I–II clinical trial in patients with advanced solid tumors.