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Pharmaust anti-cancer drug gets independent nod

ASX listed small cap biotech PharmAust has received independent confirmation of the ability of its flagship drug Monepantel to impact cancer cells without affecting non-cancerous cells.

Researchers at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, or “ONJCRI”, confirmed that human brain, breast, ovarian and prostate cancer cell lines were affected by Monepantel.

They also demonstrated that other previously untested human melanoma cancer cell lines were also affected by the drug.

Notably, the longer the cancer cell lines were exposed to Monepantel, the greater the anti-cancer activity with most showing significant and progressive increases in the effectiveness of Monepantel over a one to five-day time frame.

The Melbourne based research team also found that two non-cancerous ovarian cell lines remained relatively unaffected by Monepantel, highlighting the drug’s narrow focus on cancer cells.

Pharmaust said research into the progressive anti-cancer effect of Monepantel has been extended.

The company started its collaboration with leading ONJCRI cancer researcher Dr Doug Fairlie in March this year with the goal of better understanding how Monepantel is able to kill cancer cells.

It also sought to identify drug combinations that improve Monepantel’s effectiveness against different types of cancers.

The collaboration is supported by a $50,000 Innovation Connections Grant from the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

PharmAust Chief Scientific Officer Dr Richard Mollard said: “Independent confirmation of Monepantel’s anti-cancer activity in specific cancer cell lines is a great milestone for PharmAust.”

“This work enables PharmAust to progress through its R&D program with greater certainty and expand its intellectual property portfolio on the mechanisms underpinning Monepantel’s mode of action.”

PharmAust is completing preliminary clinical trials of Monepantel on dogs in the coming weeks to help determine the required dosage for its newly reformulated tablets in canine subjects.

Data from the canine trials will help determine the required doses for humans and confirm the non-toxic profile of the promising looking cancer fighting drug.

This will also determine if there are any food associated effects on absorption of the drug into the blood stream and provide potential manufacturers with advice about how compact the tablets need to be.

PharmAust will start a Phase 1 pharmacokinetic study with the new tablets during the fourth quarter and will follow this up with the initiation of Phase II clinical trials.

Cancer remains Australia’s leading cause of death with more than 48,000 deaths estimated for this year alone whilst the number of new cases is forecast to rise to 150,000 by 2020. Cancer costs the health system more than $4.5 bn a year according to the Cancer Council.

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