NORCROSS, Ga., Jan. 15, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Galectin Therapeutics Inc. (Nasdaq:GALT), the leading developer of therapeutics that target galectin proteins to treat fibrosis and cancer, today announced that Providence Portland Medical Center filed an Investigational New Drug (IND) application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on December 27, 2013 to study GR-MD-02 in combination with Yervoy® (ipilimumab) in a Phase 1B study of patients with metastatic melanoma. GR-MD-02 is Galectin Therapeutics' proprietary molecule that binds to and inhibits galectin proteins, predominantly galectin-3. The application was prompted by findings from a preclinical study led by tumor immunology expert William L. Redmond, Ph.D., of the Providence Portland Medical Center's Earle A. Chiles Research Institute (EACRI). The preclinical study found that GR-MD-02 increased tumor shrinkage and enhanced survival in immune competent mice with prostate and breast cancers when combined with one of the immune checkpoint inhibitors, anti-CTLA-4 or anti-PD-1. These findings suggest a role for GR-MD-02 in cancer immunotherapy. "The IND filing to study GR-MD-02 in conjunctive use with Yervoy in patients with metastatic melanoma is an important milestone for both Providence Portland Medical Center and Galectin Therapeutics," said Dr. Peter G. Traber, President, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Medical Officer, Galectin Therapeutics. "Preclinical data have shown that GR-MD-02 holds immense potential for increasing the effectiveness of other therapies and may be an important approach in enhancing cancer immunotherapy." If the application is approved by the FDA, the Phase 1B study will be conducted by the EACRI under principal investigator Brendan D. Curti, M.D. EACRI and Providence Cancer Center researchers have been leaders in immunotherapy research and translational clinical trials in melanoma and other cancers. "The Phase 1B study will determine if GR-MD-02 enhances the probability of melanoma response with ipilimumab by inducing proliferation, activation and memory function of CD8+ T cells," said Dr. Curti, the trial's principal investigator, a medical oncologist and director of the Providence Biotherapy Program at EACRI. "The combination of GR-MD-02 and ipilimumab has a strong scientific rationale based on Dr. Redmond's laboratory work. This study represents a novel approach for patients with metastatic melanoma."