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Orphan designation

On 10 September 2012, orphan designation (EU/3/12/1043) was granted by the European Commission to Endocyte Europe B.V., the Netherlands, for N-[4-[[(2-amino-3,4-dihydro-4-oxo-6-pteridinyl)methyl]amino]benzoyl]-D-gamma-glutamyl-(2S)-2-amino-beta-alanyl-L-alpha-aspartyl-L-cysteine to be used with folic acid for the diagnosis of positive folate-receptor status in ovarian cancer.

The sponsorship was transferred to Voisin Consulting S.A.R.L., France, in December 2016

What is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is cancer of the ovaries (two organs in the female reproductive system that produce eggs). Most ovarian cancers occur in women over the age of 50 years. Due to the absence of symptoms in the early stages of the disease, the majority of patients are diagnosed when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Most ovarian cancers are ‘folate-receptor positive’. This means that the surface of the cancer cell contains high amounts of a receptor called folate receptor which folic acid (a vitamin required for cell division) attaches to. This receptor can be targeted for treatment.

Ovarian cancer is a life-threatening disease that is associated with poor long-term survival.

What is the estimated number of patients eligible for diagnosis of positive folate receptor status in ovarian cancer?

At the time of designation, the number of patients eligible for diagnosis of positive folate-receptor status in ovarian cancer was estimated to be not more than 1.3 in 10,000 people in the European Union (EU)*. This is equivalent to a total of not more than 66,000 people, and is below the ceiling for orphan designation, which is 5 people in 10,000. This is based on the information provided by the sponsor and the knowledge of the Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products (COMP).

*Disclaimer: For the purpose of the designation, the number of patients affected by the condition is estimated and assessed on the basis of data from the European Union (EU 27), Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. This represents a population of 506,300,000 (Eurostat 2011).

What methods of diagnosis are available?

At the time of designation, there were no satisfactory methods of diagnosing positive folate-receptor status in ovarian cancer in the EU. Existing methods were limited to detecting the presence of ovarian cancer cells. They included vaginal examination to check for any visible abnormalities of the womb or ovaries. In addition, blood tests and ultrasound were used to help identify masses in the abdomen. If a mass was discovered, the patient underwent surgery to determine the nature of the mass.

How is this medicine expected to work?

The medicine is made up of folic acid attached to another component which contains radioactive technetium (an imaging agent). The medicine can enter the cancer cells by attaching to their folate receptors and once inside the cells it emits radiation which can be seen as an image on a scan. The medicine can therefore be used to identify those patients who have positive folate-receptor status in ovarian cancer and are most likely to respond to treatment targeting the folate receptor.

Before this medicine is given, the patient is to receive an injection of folic acid alone, as this has been shown to improve the quality of the image on the scan.

What is the stage of development of this medicine?

The effects of this medicine have been evaluated in experimental models.

At the time of submission of the application for orphan designation, clinical trials with this medicine in patients with ovarian cancer were ongoing.

At the time of submission, the medicine was not authorised anywhere in the EU for the diagnosis of positive folate-receptor status in ovarian cancer or designated as an orphan medicinal product elsewhere for diagnosing this condition.

In accordance with Regulation (EC) No 141/2000 of 16 December 1999, the COMP adopted a positive opinion on 23 July 2012 recommending the granting of this designation.

Opinions on orphan medicinal product designations are based on the following three criteria:
  • the seriousness of the condition;
  • the existence of alternative methods of diagnosis, prevention or treatment;
  • either the rarity of the condition (affecting not more than 5 in 10,000 people in the EU) or insufficient returns on investment.

Designated orphan medicinal products are products that are still under investigation and are considered for orphan designation on the basis of potential activity. An orphan designation is not a marketing authorisation. As a consequence, demonstration of quality, safety and efficacy is necessary before a product can be granted a marketing authorisation.

Key facts

Product details for <p>N-[4-[[(2-amino-3,4-dihydro-4-oxo-6-pteridinyl)methyl]amino]benzoyl]-D-gamma-glutamyl-(2S)-2-amino-beta-alanyl-L-alpha-aspartyl-L-cysteine to be used with folic acid</p>
Active substanceN-[4-[[(2-amino-3,4-dihydro-4-oxo-6-pteridinyl)methyl]amino]benzoyl]-D-gamma-glutamyl-(2S)-2-amino-beta-alanyl-L-alpha-aspartyl-L-cysteine to be used with folic acid
Medicine NameFolcepri
Disease/conditionDiagnosis of positive folate-receptor status in ovarian cancer
Date of decision10/09/2012
Orphan decision numberEU/3/12/1043

Review of designation

The Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products reviews the orphan designation of a product if it is approved for marketing authorisation.

Related information

Sponsor’s contact details:

Voisin Consulting S.A.R.L.
64 Avenue Pierre Grenier
92100 Boulogne-Billancourt
Tel.: +33 141318300
Fax: +33 141318309

Patients' organisations:

For contact details of patients’ organisations whose activities are targeted at rare diseases see:

  • Orphanet, a database containing information on rare diseases which includes a directory of patients’ organisations registered in Europe;
  • European Organisation for Rare Diseases (EURORDIS), a non-governmental alliance of patient organisations and individuals active in the field of rare diseases.