SEK 25 million to development of new cancer drug
04 July 2012
A cancer project started at Lund University in Sweden can now continue its journey towards clinical trials and a finished drug thanks to SEK 25 million from the R&D programme Eurostar.
The research, focusing on a particular protein, Wnt5a, has been conducted at the University for over 10 years. In 2007 the development company WntResearch was set up with the aim of further developing the substances that the University’s medical team had produced.
Amid tough competition (ranking 19 out of 294 applications) the company was recently awarded close to SEK 25 million, together with five international partners. The support covers a three-year period and comes from Eurostar, a European programme aimed at research and development in small and medium-sized enterprises.
Aiming for trials in Denmark
”The money provides the opportunity to continue our preparatory studies, to develop the substance into a form that is suitable for patients and to conduct a clinical phase 1 trial. It is also sufficient, if everything goes well, to start a phase 2 trial”, says Tommy Andersson, Professor at the Department of Laboratory Medicine in Malmö and head of research at WntResearch.
The clinical phase 1 trial is planned for the end of 2012. After the summer, the Danish Health and Medicines Authority will be contacted, as the trial will probably take place at Copenhagen’s Rigshospitalet.
The research, which began in Tommy Andersson’s research team, gradually led to the discovery that the Wnt5a protein has a metastasis-inhibiting effect on breast and colon cancer. For various reasons, however, the protein proved to be unsuitable for use as a main ingredient in a drug or treatment method. So the researchers developed a small peptide, Foxy5, which mimics the properties of Wnt5a.
In combination with other drugs
The initial focus was on breast cancer, but depending on forthcoming studies, the progression of the disease and access to patients, there may be cause to review the types of cancer which are to be the focus of a future phase 2 trial.
Unlike many other methods of treatment for cancer – both existing treatments and ones that are still at the research stage – Foxy5 does not attack the growth or survival of the tumour cells. Instead, it is aimed at preventing the spread of the cancer, which often constitutes the most serious threat to the patient’s health. This means that it should be possible to combine the peptide with other drugs that attack the tumour cells’ capacity for division and survival. More studies will be conducted to further verify this.
The cooperation partners are universities and companies in Denmark, Norway, the UK, Germany and Austria. The participants commit to matching the funds they receive from the Eurostar programme, and the total budget for the Foxy5 project including the support from Eurostar is around SEK 40 million.
Text: Björn Martinsson
Facts/Clinical trials phases 1-3
Phase 1 is the first trial on humans. It is conducted on a small group (often 10-20 people). The aim is to see whether the medicine is safe and at what dose. In phase 2, a trial is carried out on patients who are suffering from the disease the intended drug is thought to combat, in order to assess the drug’s effectiveness. The number of participants can vary from a few tens up to a few thousand. Phase 3 is the last trial before the drug is registered. This is conducted on several thousand patients.
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