Irish pharmaceutical Almac Discovery is to team with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) in a pact to create new medicines aimed at treatment-resistant forms of cancer.
The collaboration will specifically explore the potential of an Almac Discovery candidate developed by RCSI researchers called ALM201 in terms of its effect on a group of treatment resistance-incurring cells called cancer stem cells.
The drug is currently in a phase 1 dose-escalation trial in patients with solid tumours, begun in 2015. Upon completion of this first phase, the study is expected to be expanded to include ovarian cancer patients with a specific biomarker.
Pre-clinical data suggests ALM201 may make cancer stem cells more sensitive to both chemotherapy and radiotherapy as well as inhibiting the formation of new blood vessels in tumours.
“Cancer stem cells are a major barrier to successful radiotherapy and chemotherapy and can result in failure of these treatments. Our initial data demonstrates that ALM201 can transform these cells so they are no longer resistant to these therapies,” said RCSI’s professor Tracy Robson, one of the researchers involved in ALM201’s initial development.
Cancer stem cells are a fairly new presence in the oncology world, having only been discovered at the beginning of the century. They act as a core depository of cancer cells that replicate and form a tumour. Like normal stem cells, they lack specificity meaning there are few distinguishing features that can be targeted using traditional chemo- and radiotherapy. If left undefeated, cancer stem cells are thought to be responsible for tumours returning post-supposedly successful treatment.
If ALM201’s pre-clinical data can be replicated and the drug indeed leads to an easier destruction of these cells, the chance of cancer recurrence is far lower than if a tumour were treated with current go-t0 methods and the drug could open the door to more effective cancer therapies.