The urgent unmet need for a new class of cancer therapy to treat ovarian cancer

Athena Kolivos, Chief Scientific Officer CRC and Farmaforce

As the world continues to pull out all the stops to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and address the multiple challenges it poses to communities, governments and economies, the experience also serves as a strong reminder that life-threatening diseases need timely and effective solutions.

Among these are many types of cancers, of which ovarian cancer remains an insidious disease that threatens both survival and the quality of life of thousands of people globally.

World Ovarian Cancer Day brings to the fore some sobering statistics.

  • Ovarian cancer ranks fifth among all cancer deaths in females and kills more women than any other gynaecological cancer.
  • For every 78 women who reach 85 years of age, one will have ovarian cancer.
  • In 2020 more than 308,000 women worldwide will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, among whom half will be under 63 years of age, and over 193,000 of cases will not survive.
  • Less than 49% of affected women will live for five years after their diagnosis.

Commonly diagnosed at an advanced stage and with a poor prognosis, ovarian cancer is an often silent disease difficult to detect in its early stages. Symptoms can be absent, non-specific or similar to that of other conditions, while there are no specific screening or diagnostic tests in the early stages of disease.

A further complexity is that ovarian cancer is not just one disease but a spectrum of malignancy that includes numerous subtypes. These have differing microscopic tissue structures, anatomical origin, molecular biology profiles, pathological grade (i.e. aggressiveness) and risk factors among other characteristics, all of which results in vastly differing sensitivities to treatment.  

Despite various therapy advances in recent years, the unfortunate truth is that ovarian cancer remains an incurable disease for which survival rates have only modestly improved.

Platinum-based chemotherapy (usually in combination with surgery) is the mainstay first line drug treatment for ovarian cancer tumours, yet its effectiveness typically does not last and is accompanied by a number of dose-limiting toxicities.  

Therefore, while 70% of women with ovarian cancer tumours initially respond well to platinum-based chemotherapy, at least 80% of them will experience relapse at some stage. However, to treat again with platinum-based chemotherapy is complicated by persistent side effects from previous treatment, alongside potential life-threatening platinum hypersensitivity reactions. Furthermore, while around 50% of women with recurrent disease will still respond to platinum retreatment, the returns lessen as “progression-free survival” (i.e. time during and after treatment a woman lives with the disease but it doesn’t get worse) decreases with each successive platinum therapy course.

A particular challenge is “platinum-resistant” ovarian cancer where the disease returns less than six months after completing first line platinum-based chemotherapy, as opposed to “platinum sensitive” cancer that reappears more than six months after treatment finishes. Yet for women who relapse with platinum-resistant ovarian cancer the average response rate to “salvage” therapy is only 10-15% with a median progression-free survival of 3-4 months.

Women diagnosed with advanced stage ovarian cancer are generally on borrowed time. Ultimately, 80-90% will develop platinum resistance that is fatal – their poor survival resulting from both the late diagnosis and lack of an effective therapy for disease recurrence.

All of which highlights the urgent need to step up investment in the development and commercialisation of effective therapies that can overcome platinum resistant tumours and disease recurrence without the dose-limiting toxicities that undermine affected women’s safety and quality of life, as well as treatment effectiveness.

To address this unmet need, The iQ Group Global oncology company OncoTEX Inc. has TEX Core, an innovative oncology molecular drug platform for developing novel multi-modal drugs with enhanced effectiveness and that can overcome dose-limiting toxicities for treating cancerous tumours. This occurs from the synergies created by conjugating an established oncology therapy with a metallotexaphyrin molecule, which has been well researched. This molecule has been clinically validated in Phase III trials as being  able to selectively localise to tumours and is MRI-traceable for targeted drug delivery, enabling specific tumour cell death.

With TEX Core, a range of well-tolerated, MRI detectable oncology therapies can be developed that target both drug sensitive and drug resistant solid tumours without harming healthy cells. Among these therapies, the highest priority because of the unmet clinical need is developing and commercialising lead drug candidate OxaliTEX to effectively and safely treat platinum resistant ovarian cancer.

With the theme ‘Our #PowerfulVoice’, this year for World Ovarian Cancer Day, the need to reinforce the importance of investing in ongoing drug research and development programs for ovarian cancer is more urgent than ever. If with this voice we can accelerate the development of a more humane, more efficacious treatment for women with this devastating disease, then this truly would be a breakthrough.

About OxaliTEX

OxaliTEX is a conjugate of oxaliplatin – a well-established platinum-based chemotherapy drug – and a tumour localising metallotexaphyrin for targeted drug delivery to cancerous tumours. Preclinical studies show OxaliTEX targets solid tumour cells, activates within tumours and overcomes multi-factorial drug resistance mechanisms with minimal adverse effects and so is shown to be superior to traditional platinum-based chemotherapy drugs. Read more

About OncoTEX Inc.

OncoTEX Inc. is an oncology company and member of bioscience investment enterprise The iQ Group Global. OncoTEX Inc. owns TEX Core, a novel oncology drug platform that enables the development of well-tolerated, MRI-detectable cancer therapeutics that target drug-sensitive and drug-resistant solid tumours. Find out more

About The iQ Group Global

The iQ Group Global is a consortium of companies that finds, funds and develops bioscience discoveries to create life-changing medical innovations. Find out more

Athena Kolivos

Chief Scientific Officer, CRC & Farmaforce

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