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New cancer drug could give hope to non-responsive patients

Published on 15/02/17 at 10:23am

A new dual action drug developed as part of a collaboration between biopharmaceutical oncology firm Almac Discovery and The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) could be used to treat cancer patients in whom all other treatment avenues have failed.

In development for 10 years, ALM201 entered the clinical trial stage in 2015 and the research team at RCSI have now established the maximum tolerated dose, as lead researcher Proffesor Tracy Robson explained: “We started off with a low dose of the drug and then incrementally increased it so we can establish the best dose to use without toxicity. We have seen no toxicity at all, which is really good news.”

ALM201 was originally engineered to treat cancer by starving tumours of oxygen and nutrients by cutting off the blood supply, but the drug has since shown the ability to target cancer stem cells which are traditionally resistant to radiotherapy and chemotherapy, meaning it could provide hope to patients whose cancer has not responded to these treatments.

“Cancer stem cells are a major barrier to successful radiotherapy and chemotherapy and can result in failure of these treatments,” said Robson. “Our initial data demonstrates that ALM201 can transform these cells so they are no longer resistant to these therapies.”

The team now plans to pre-select ovarian cancer candidates for who have not responded to previous treatments and who possess a specific gene signature meaning they are most likely to respond to ALM201. Robson added that if the drug displays compelling efficacy data, authorisation could be accelerated and patients could see access within around five years.  

Matt Fellows

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