Pharminox signs option to in-license novel telomere signalling targeted agents from Cancer Research Technology
Oxford, UK, 19 April 2006 - Pharminox Limited, ("Pharminox" or "the Company") the private UK oncology R&D company, today announced that it has signed a new agreement with Cancer Research Technology Limited (CRT) to secure rights to a preclinical oncology programme focused on telomere signalling targeted agents (TSTAs). The programme has come out of research by Professor Malcolm Stevens OBE, Director of the Cancer Research UK Experimental Cancer Chemotherapy group at the University of Nottingham, who is also Chief Scientific Officer of Pharminox.
Under the terms of the agreement, CRT has granted Pharminox an exclusive 12-month option to in-license exclusive worldwide development and commercialisation rights to the programme. A lead candidate, RHPS4, has already been selected and is expected to move into formal preclinical development within the next 12 months.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Peter Worrall, Chief Executive of Pharminox, said: “This agreement is our third collaboration with CRT and we welcome the opportunity to build on the strong relationship that we already have with CRT. The TSTA programme is a very valuable addition to our portfolio and represents another important step towards our goal of building a pipeline of targeted, small-molecule anti-cancer agents with novel mechanisms of action spanning research through to early-stage clinical development.”
Mechanistic studies with RHPS4 suggest that it exerts its activity primarily by disrupting the function of the telomere, the single-stranded piece of DNA at the end of chromosomes. RHPS4 is also a potent inhibitor of telomerase, an enzyme whose role is to maintain telomere length in order to prevent cells entering a process known as apoptosis (programmed cell death). Telomerase is known to be highly up-regulated in 90% of all cancer cells.
RHPS4 has shown potent anti-tumour activity against a range of common human tumours in in vitro and in vivo testing. In xenograft models, it has shown tumour growth inhibition of up to 90% relative to control when given as a single agent. In a combination study with the marketed anti-cancer agent paclitaxel (Taxoltm) in a uterine tumour model, it produced complete and rapid eradication of the tumours with no observable re-growth throughout the remainder of the study. Paclitaxel given as a single agent in a separate study in the same tumour model achieved good tumour growth inhibition but only transient tumour regression.
Professor Stevens commented: “I am delighted that Pharminox has been able to secure the rights to this exciting programme. TSTAs represent a highly promising new area of cancer research and we believe RHPS4 to be one of the most advanced compounds in this class. During the option period our intention is to carry out additional in vivo studies to build on the impressive data that we have already seen and to inform the design of a clinical trial.”
Dr Phil L’Huillier, CRT’s Director of Business Management, added, “We are enthusiastic about the prospects for this novel programme and we are pleased to be able to facilitate its continued development under the auspices of Pharminox and Professor Stevens.”