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Second NZ anticancer “stealth” drug targeted for development

Second NZ anticancer “stealth” drug targeted for clinical development

4 August 2011

Second New Zealand anticancer “stealth” drug targeted for clinical development

A second anticancer “stealth” drug designed by New Zealand scientists has been targeted for clinical development under a collaborative agreement between Proacta Incorporated (San Diego) and Yakult Honsha Co., Ltd. (Tokyo).

PR610 belongs to an exciting new class of hypoxia-activated pro-drugs for the treatment of cancer, designed by Dr Jeff Smaill and Dr Adam Patterson from the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre (ACSRC) and Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery.

“The agreement to develop PR610 to clinical trial is another big step for the ACSRC. It is exciting to see it join the series of new drugs that have come out of the Centre. Congratulations to Drs Smaill and Patterson, and all who have worked on this project” says Professor Bill Denny, co-Director of the ACSRC at The University of Auckland and a Maurice Wilkins Centre principal investigator.

“All New Zealanders have an interest in cancer drug discovery and development. We should take pride in seeing such a breakthrough occurring and being led by our local scientific community” says John Loof, CEO of the Cancer Society, Auckland.

PR610 it is part of a pipeline of hypoxia-activated pro-drugs licensed to pharmaceutical company Proacta by The University of Auckland. Proacta entered into the collaboration agreement granting Yakult research, development and commercialisation rights to the first agent in its class, PR509, in Japan in February 2011.

Based on compelling preclinical data for PR610, Proacta and Yakult have announced recently that they will expand their existing agreement to include PR610.

PR509 and PR610 are hypoxia-activated irreversible multi-kinase inhibitors. The pro-drugs selectively target the low-oxygen (hypoxic) conditions found in many solid tumours. Since they are inactive in normal, healthy tissues, they avoid the problem of indiscriminate toxicity associated with standard cancer treatments.

“Our scientists are finding innovative and exciting new ways to target cancer by exploiting the abnormal biological environment created by tumours,” says Professor Rod Dunbar, Director of the Maurice Wilkins Centre. “The agreement to develop PR610 is yet another example of the excellence of drug discovery in New Zealand and its potential to benefit cancer patients worldwide.”

Both PR509 and PR610 have been targeted for development in non-small cell lung cancer that is resistant to established treatments. They are also likely to be evaluated in other cancers such as gastric, breast, and pancreatic cancer.

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