Worldwide cancer accounts for over 10 million deaths per year. In Australia alone, 3 in 10 deaths are due to this cause. Treatments have advanced considerably in the last decade but the majority of therapies are highly toxic, untargeted and inadequate for late stage cancer patients.
A new breakthrough drug, PPL1 from PharmAust, offers a potential first-line treatment for many of the predominant cancers and can change the treatment landscape with its non-toxic, highly targeted solution. This drug appears to offer a “new class” of anticancer drug with potential to, not only have activity itself but to also to be used in conjunction with standard of care.
Dr Roger Aston, CEO of PharmAust outlined the potential for this treatment, “This year about 1,470 Australian women are expected to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer alone. With lack of early screening and a high mortality rate, the prognosis is not good for patients. In our preclinical studies to date, PPL1 indicated it would be highly effective for this kind of cancer and would be a viable treatment option offering these women new hope”.
Standalone cure, compelling partner, or both?
An interesting effect of PPL1 is that when used in conjunction with existing chemotherapy treatments, PPL1 increases a drug’s potency by up to 100 times with no increase of toxicity. This is a notable development as the dosage of existing cancer drugs may be reduced by a 100-fold lower and potentially maintain the same efficacy. Dr Aston continued “PPL1 is exciting as it can open the market to drugs whose activity would be too toxic for certain kinds of cancer”.
As a standalone treatment, PPL1 was effective with no apparent toxicity. “Naturally we are also excited at the prospect of PPL1 as a potential cure for both human and veterinary applications.”
Accidental Discovery, Strategic Opportunity
86 years ago, Alexander Fleming stumbled upon a wonder drug that would advance mankind forever. The discovery of an anti-bacterial mould that led to the breakthrough agent Penicillin. In the same vein, Professor David Morris, a highly regarded cancer surgeon at St George Hospital, Sydney stumbled onto something where he least expected it
“While on working on my farm I gave an anti-parasitic drug to some sheep. As the drug was well received there was plenty of the drug leftover. I took some into the lab for analysis and the findings were quite staggering. Its ability to destroy tumour cells demonstrated it would be a viable anti-cancer treatment. Seeing this first hand makes me quietly confident that results in animals and our forthcoming human trial will support these findings.”
Veterinary and Human Trials
Testing for veterinary purposes has been approved commencing shortly. Testing and trials on humans has also been scheduled for this year. “With human trials it is expected that we’ll be treating patients who have failed with other treatments and whose life expectancy is limited. It is with these terminal ovarian cancer cases that we’ll be looking for a breakthrough.”
Long-term human safety studies are less likely to be required for drug compounds that have previously been approved by regulatory authorities for other indications. Particularly considering the new applications revolve around late stage or terminal cancer therapies.
Investors to date have backed PPL1 oversubscribing a recent fundraising. “In our view, the start and completion of the ‘first in man’ study of PPL1 will provide significant upside as it will open the doors for major cancer applications with large pharmaceutical companies. This should see our investors rewarded for helping us through the challenging early phase of the drug’s life.”