In a new development, clinical-stage oncology drug development player Noxopharm Limited (ASX:NOX) has confirmed that an isoflavonoid drug candidate has passed the proof-of-principle test for its brain cancer program in laboratory studies, paving the way to formally become the Company’s second pipeline drug program.
With proof-of-principle achieved, this Noxopharm program expects to confirm its lead candidate and proceed to a pre-clinical program with a target of entering a clinical study in late 2021.
In this development, Noxopharm’s current drug pipeline program has expanded to two core programs, building on its lead oncology drug candidate, Veyonda®.
Noxopharm’s Second Pipeline Drug Program Targets glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)
Around 230,000 deaths are expected to occur every year from cancers of the brain and spinal cord across the world, with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) being the most common form of brain cancer.
Noxopharm believes its brain cancer program unlocks the door to a more safe and effective treatment for the large unmet treatment need of this rare cancer (GBM), which has a poor prognosis due to rapid tumour growth and limited treatment options. Besides, GBM has a very low survival rate of approximately 14 months after the diagnosis.
Recent research has demonstrated that the brain’s main neurotransmitter chemical, glutamate, drives growth and proliferation of human GBM cell lines. The proof-of-principle finding released by Noxopharm supports the evidence of such a mechanism.
Noxopharm intends to advance this new approach into a potentially effective treatment, after discovering the potential of its test compound at successfully blocking glutamate-induced cell growth of GBM cells.
The Company believes the approach to be identical to blocking the effect that estrogen has in driving the growth of breast and ovarian cancers, or how testosterone can be said to fuel prostate cancer. Blocking these hormonal drivers has proved to be very effective in the treatment of these cancers, and the data generated by Noxopharm so far, suggests the possibility of the same for GBM.
How Glutamate Stimulates Growth of GBM Cells?
The brain is primarily composed of neurons and glial cells, with neurons supporting the functioning of brain and glial cells supporting the neurons. These neurons are interconnected via junctions called synapses, with electrical impulses crossing those junctions through chemicals termed as neurotransmitters.
Glial cells are intimately involved in the formation and protection of neuronal synapses, closely communicating with neurons. When glial cells become cancerous, this intimacy intensifies, with glutamate (the brain’s main neurotransmitter) promoting invasiveness and growth of cancerous glial cells.
Noxopharm’s approach is to block this key factor for growth of the cancer cells and is different to the approach of other chemotherapies that directly target the cancer cells, which have been modest in their efficacy to date. In addition, the Company’s aim is to build a drug pipeline based on its isoflavonoid drug development technology platform.
Noxopharm expects its brain cancer program to offer a means to decelerate the invasiveness and growth of brain cancers to the extent that chemotherapy and radiotherapy have failed to do so for most patients. Notably, the Company is building a pipeline of drugs with novel mechanisms of action, highly sought after by big pharma players.
NOX closed the trading session at $0.205 on 30 April 2020.