Anti-Cancer drug secures multi-million funding grant

09 March 2018
Associate Professors Adam Patterson and Jeff Smaill in a lab
Associate Professors Adam Patterson and Jeff Smaill

Associate Professors Jeff Smaill and Adam Patterson of the University’s Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre (ACSRC) designed the chemotherapy drug CP-506 over a three year period.
Now Belgium based Convert Pharmaceuticals has secured $23 million to develop the anti-cancer drug. The funds will be used to prepare and conduct initial clinical studies that could start as early as next year.
CP-506 is a chemotherapy drug that is able to target cancer cells that are oxygen-deprived whilst sparing normal tissues, improving the activity, specificity and safety relative to older chemotherapy drugs.
Convert, headquartered in Liège, Belgium, was founded to develop next-generation tumor-microenvironment modulated prodrugs.
The ACSRC is one of the world’s most renowned research labs in the field, having developed over 12 drugs to clinical trial, two of which are hypoxia-selective prodrugs.
“These prodrugs are inactive by themselves, but transform into potent anti-cancer agents when entering tumors. Many tumors contain areas that are insufficiently oxygenated. These areas are hard to treat with radio-, chemo- and immunotherapies. However, CP-506 becomes active in these areas and eradicates these treatment resistant areas very efficiently,” Associate Professor Patterson says.
Tumor sensitivity to CP-506 is not only driven by low oxygen, but is also enhanced by other specific activating factors. Convert Pharmaceuticals, in close collaboration with Auckland, is therefore also developing advanced genetic predictors of sensitivity that will enable an accurate selection of patients that may benefit the most from CP-506 treatment.
Associate Professor Patterson and Associate Professor Smaill say CP-506 represents many years of hard work by a dedicated team of New Zealand research scientists.
“We are delighted to work with Convert to advance CP-506 to human clinical trials. The selection of CP-506 was only made possible through the ongoing support of the Health Research Council of New Zealand, initiated by BioPharma Translational Research Initiative funding support from the University of Auckland.”
“We are grateful to these funding agencies for sharing our vision of bringing life changing therapies to terminally-ill cancer patients. We hope to work with Convert to bring future CP-506 clinical trials to New Zealand as soon as possible”
Associate Professor Smaill says: “We are delighted that Convert recognised the quality of the work done by our very talented team of scientists in New Zealand and the promise of CP-506. We are excited to work together to realise our goal of delivering novel medicines that address urgent clinical problems.”
Professor Dr Philippe Lambin, Chief Scientific Advisor of Convert and Professor at Maastricht University says the development of CP-506 was also ranked by the European Commission (through the Eurostars grant program) as among the top 8% of all European projects. A presentation on the preclinical activity of CP-506 will take place at the American Association of Cancer Research Annual Meeting in Chicago, in April 2018.
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