Despite a plethora of advancements in cancer care in recent decades, ovarian cancer remains a great challenge. In 2019, an estimated 22,530 women will be diagnosed with the ovarian cancer, while the disease will take the lives of about 13,980 women, making it the fifth most lethal form of cancer in the U.S.
It was some research in the earliest form, but OncBioMune (OTCPK: OBMP) is hoping that its new therapy could one day provide a new option for cancer sufferers.
Typically, doctors make their decisions on how to treat based upon the type of ovarian cancer and the stage of disease, with options ranging from local treatments (surgery or radiation) to systemic (chemotherapy, hormone and targeted therapies). Frequently at the backbone of a treatment regimen for advanced disease is the chemotherapy blockbuster paclitaxel, a drug first approved in 1992 for refractory ovarian cancer.
Paclitaxel is FDA-approved in two forms: solvent-based under the brand name Taxol® and protein-based under the brand name Abraxane®.
OncBioMune is developing a new drug it calls PGT, an acronym for “paclitaxel, gallium, transferrin”. The drug is designed to stunt cancer cell growth by selectively delivering paclitaxel to cancer cells over-expressing the transferrin receptor, also known as CD71. CD71 is a promising cancer therapy target because it is over-expressed in multiple types of hematologic and solid cancers, including ovarian.
Additionally, PGT leverages the fact that transferrin has binding sites for iron that can bind gallium, a metal ion with anti-cancer activity. Collectively, this means that PGT represents an opportunity to hit tumors with two powerful cancer therapies at once in a targeted manner.
CytomX Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CTMX) is one of a select group of companies to demonstrate any success in targeting CD71. CytomX’s lab studies caught the attention of AbbVie (NASDAQ: ABBV), resulting in a partnership and a $30 million upfront payment to CytomX. AbbVie has committed to paying CytomX $470 million in total cash payments for meeting developmental and commercial milestones, plus a royalty on sales, when/if the drug (CX-2029) one day garners FDA approval.
Research on PGT is still confined to the laboratory, but the Baton Rouge-based OncBioMune, which is also developing a prostate cancer vaccine that is in mid-stage human trials, is starting to show some interesting developments with its novel therapy.
CATO BioVentures, the venture capital affiliate of privately owned family fund Cato Holding, has already engaged OncBioMune regard the PGT science. The two inked a letter of intent earlier this month for which CATO will become a strategic investor in OncBioMune to support the development of PGT.
On Thursday, the company said that it has received and analyzed the data from an in vitro study looking at the effect of PGT on ovarian cancer cell lines compared to that of paclitaxel.
Specifically, the experiment looked at IC50, a measure of the concentration of a drug needed to slow tumor cell growth by 50 percent. In the first cell line, a breast cancer line that is sensitive to chemotherapy called MCF-7, the IC50s were similar between PGT and paclitaxel.
In the second cell line, a multidrug-resistant ovarian cancer cell line dubbed NCI/ADR-RES, the results were much more dramatic. The IC50 for paclitaxel was 216 micromolar, while the IC50 for PGT was just 0.0318 micromolar. In laymen’s terms, the concentration of paclitaxel needed to be increased almost 6,800 fold to achieve the same inhibition of tumor cell growth as PGT in a known model of multidrug-resistant ovarian cancer.
Again, the research is very early, but does hint at the idea that PGT could possibly overcome drug resistance problems, even at low concentrations.
More research is needed, which OBMP CEO Dr. Brian Barnett said in a news release is in the works. He went on to say that the next tests will evaluate PGT against other cancer lines, indicating that the company is looking to cast a wide net for the best cancer targets before starting to dial things in, a common practice amongst biotechs to minimize risk and attract partners.
Shares of OBMP are on the move in Thursday trading following the news, up 42.9% at $0.01 with 2-1/2 hours to go in the trading day.
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