How the pandemic could change the way we fight cancer

With all eyes on the global rollout of lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines, we now know how swiftly unmet clinical needs can be achieved when indomitable minds work collectively.

In January 2020, experts began analysing the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus spreading through the human populous after researchers in China uploaded gene sequencing data to a public portal.

In what has seemed like an impossible task, researchers from across the globe have developed multiple COVID-19 vaccines in less than a year.

Vice President of Research, OncoTEX Inc., Dr Jonathan Arambula said the global response to COVID-19 and the swift development of vaccines has revealed the medical milestones that can be achieved when global experts collaborate to achieve a common goal.  

“The pandemic is something we weren’t prepared for and it has acted as a catalyst for changing the way we create medicines from development to sales, and this should be a lesson for us,” Dr Arambula said.

Until now, the fastest vaccine to go from development to market was for the mumps in the 1960s, which took around four years.

While experts had the advantage of five decades of previous research into coronaviruses as a baseline, the expedited development of a COVID-19 vaccine was still a remarkable feat of medicine.

However, we mustn’t forget the remarkable work being undertaken to curb the surfeit of deadly diseases still plaguing us. 

Each year almost 240,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and only approximately 49 per cent survive beyond five years.

More than 1,400 Australian woman are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year with one woman in Australia dying every eight hours, making it one of the leading causes of cancer-related death in women. This is largely because it is rarely symptomatic in its early stages and often untreatable and fatal by the time of detection.

At present, there is no effective early screening test for ovarian cancer.

When the tumour is in a dormant stage, during the first few months of growth, it is extremely difficult to detect.

The iQ Group Global has been committed to bolstering the fight against ovarian cancer through the development of cancer-fighting drug OxaliTEX, being developed in Texas by subsidiary, OncoTEX Inc., under their oncology drug platform known as TEX Core.

At present, platinum-based chemotherapy is one of the most effective treatments for ovarian cancer.

While platinum-based chemotherapy has the proven ability to kill tumours, the therapy also turns the human body into a biological battlefield, destroying healthy cells in the process.

 “The issue we have with current FDA therapeutics is poor tumour localisation. The treatments available today go through the entire body, attacking good cells in the process,” Dr Arambula said

The indiscriminate toxic effect of treatment can also lead to a plethora of issues including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, hair loss and anorexia.

Chemotherapy, while still one of the most effective US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved cancer treatments, can also cause severe peripheral neuropathy, forcing oncologists to order the reduction or cessation of treatment – a death sentence for many patients.

Another complicating factor in treating cancer is the tumour’s ability to develop resistance to platinum-based drugs, which eventually renders the therapy ineffective.

Once ovarian cancer becomes platinum-resistant, the median survival rate is 9-12 months, while less than 15 per cent respond to subsequent chemotherapy.

“Platinum resistance, which is sometimes inherent in advanced disease or acquired after platinum treatment, often dictates the course of treatment and worsens the prognosis. This is something that we at OncoTEX are determined to change,” Dr Arambula said

“All of us working on our lead clinical candidate, OxaliTEX, come from different backgrounds with the common goal of overcoming the deficiencies in current therapeutics.”

OxaliTEX is the first candidate from a new class of oncology drugs designed to target platinum-resistant ovarian cancer by overcoming all issues associated with the current standard of care (SOC). Unlike current SOC, OxaliTEX is tumour localising, well-tolerated, overcomes platinum resistance and is detectable using an MRI screening test, so clinicians and patients can easily monitor tumour regression.

Dr Arambula said OxaliTEX, which is in pre-clinical stage, was being developed as a new weapon to fight tumours and preserve life.

“Based on pre-clinical studies, we see that OxaliTEX can localize to solid tumours like a magnet. This localization is one reason why OxaliTEX is better tolerated than current approved platinum agents in side-by-side comparisons,“ Dr. Arambula said.

“Unlike COVID-19 which caught the world off guard, we have known about cancer all our lives and to a certain degree, we have become accustomed to its existence. 

“That is a problem and there is no reason why we shouldn’t reassess how we approach cancer research.”

OncoTEX Inc. plans to seek regulatory approval with the FDA via the orphan drug status pathway, available to prioritise novel drug candidates for rare diseases without current approved therapies.

“Imagine if, with increased global collaboration, we could develop life-changing oncology therapeutics as quickly as we have seen vaccines developed for COVID-19,” Dr Arambula said.

“While COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the world, we can draw hope from our newfound ability to expedite urgent therapies for longstanding diseases like ovarian cancer to change the lives of people globally.”

This Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, we are proud to continue with our mission to address the unmet need for a new class of cancer therapy to treat ovarian cancer.

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 the iQ Group Global 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

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