Australian pharmaceutical firm Bionomics announced that they would be conducting Phase II trials on their newest drug in the fight against mesothelioma at the start of 2010. The compound, known as BCN105, will be tested on sixty patients currently suffering from this aggressive form of cancer.
Dr. Deborah Rathjen, Bionomics’ Chief Executive Officer, stated that this clinical trial would be one of only a handful of trials geared toward testing new treatments for the disease, which arises primarily in patients exposed to asbestos. She also said that the premise of the trials is to test how BCN105 can improve the lifespan of patients diagnosed with the disease, as well as raise their quality of life.
Currently, patients diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer that attacks the fluid linings of the lungs and other organs, typically live less than two years. According to data compiled by Bionomics and other researchers throughout the country, nearly six hundred new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in Australia every year from a population of twenty-two million. The disease is also responsible for at least five hundred deaths in the country annually.
With the widespread use of asbestos throughout the country during the 1950s and 1960s, experts estimate that both the incidence rates and death tolls for this disease will rise steeply within the next twenty to thirty years. Also, the rampant use of asbestos-containing material and tailings by construction giant James Hardie Company has caused a nationwide controversy and has spurred a closer look at the high rates of mesothelioma diagnoses.
Dr. Rathjen explained the approach behind how BCN105 is expected to work. With many chemotherapy treatments, malignant cells can develop an immunity or resistance to the medication. Dr. Rathjen believes cancer cells will not be able to develop a resistance to BCN105 in the same way. She also said that BCN105 would inhibit the blood flow to cancerous tumors, cutting off a major source of energy to the affected cells.
The schedule for the Phase II trials has been stepped up due to the success in Phase I trials over the last twelve months. According to Dr. Rathjen, the Phase I trials conducted at various hospitals and cancer research centers throughout the country showed great promise. She said that, during the animal testing phases, the drug showed the ability both to shut down blood flow to the tumor as well as destroy the individual cancer cells against nearly any type of malignancy.
Although BCN105 has shown great promise in early tests against many forms of cancer, the strategy at Bionomics is to test the drug against “niche” types such as mesothelioma. Last year, the company tested BCN105 in the United States on patients with renal cancer, a form of the disease that affects the interior of small tubes inside the kidneys. The Phase II trials on Australian mesothelioma patients are expected to run until early 2011. If the trials are successful, the firm will consider the commercial applications for the drug, which they expect could top US$1 billion.
Sources: Telstra BigPond News, Sydney Morning Herald