BioMedWire Editorial Coverage: Advances in biotechnology look to deliver promising new treatment options against breast cancer.
Independent researchers have found that Genprex Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GNPX) (GNPX Profile) TUSC2 prevented tumor growth against triple-negative breast cancer. Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY) is focusing on those patients with the greatest need and, in the process, has developed a new breast-cancer treatment option. Roche Holding (OTCQX: RHHBY) is expanding the use of its biotech to both identify and treat patients with challenging breast cancers. AbbVie Inc. (NYSE: ABBV) has been rapidly increasing its research, targeting more than 15 different types of cancer. AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) has seen hopeful results against metastatic breast cancer as it works in collaboration with a Japanese firm.
- Breast cancer is a major killer, responsible for 25% of cancers in women and half a million deaths each year.
- Gene therapies offer a way to treat previously difficult or unstoppable cancers.
- The attention of major pharmaceutical companies is pushing research forward fast.
Battling Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is one of the most widely prevalent cancers in the world. Accounting for a quarter of all cancers in women worldwide, as well as a number of cases in men, it kills over half a million people every year.
Treatment for breast cancer varies, based on both the patient’s circumstances and type of cancer. The development of treatments to suppress or even eliminate cancer has led to a high survival rate in wealthy countries, with around 85% of patients in the United States and United Kingdom surviving for at least five years from diagnosis. But even in these countries, survival depends upon the exact form of the cancer, how far it has progressed and whether a treatment has been developed for that particular form. Cancer is a difficult disease to defeat, and survival can depend upon the ability of scientists to counter a specific genetic defect in a specific set of cells.
Good News for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Patients
Because cancers are so varied and challenging to tackle, every individual win is worth celebrating. That’s why recent news relating to triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) has brought excitement both for independent researchers and for Genprex Inc. (NASDAQ: GNPX), a clinical-stage, gene-therapy company whose tumor suppressor candidate 2 (TUSC2) was found to prevent tumor growth in TNBC.
TNBC covers a variety of cancers that do not express three specific types of receptor proteins. Most hormone therapies for breast cancer target one of these receptors, so tackling a cancer that doesn’t feature any of those receptors is more difficult. TNBC is an extremely aggressive subtype of breast cancer associated with poor prognosis and high mortality rates. The lack of targeted treatment for triple-negative breast cancer makes it a particularly feared diagnosis. Because up to 20% of breast-cancer patients are fighting TNBC, finding therapies that effectively fight these forms of cancer is essential.
Recently TNBC patients have heard good news, thanks to research published in Nature. This research shows that TUSC2 prevented the growth of tumors in TNBC. And with Genprex already working on cancer treatments using TUSC2, including its lead drug candidate, Oncoprex(TM) immunogene therapy, the new research appears to validate the company’s focus and direction.
Currently Genprex is conducting clinical and preclinical research to evaluate the effectiveness of TUSC2 when combined with targeted therapies and immunotherapies for non-small cell lung cancer. Existing preclinical data also suggest that TUSC2 may be effective against glioblastoma, head and neck cancer, kidney cancer and soft-tissue sarcomas. This new independent study raises the possibility that TUSC2 expression may also be used to treat this most aggressive subset of breast cancer.
“The results of the study evaluating TUSC2 for the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer are encouraging,” said Genprex chairman and CEO Rodney Varner. “We believe that the data reported in this Nature article by independent researchers supports our belief that TUSC2 may be effective to treat a variety of cancers, including some of the most-deadly types of cancer.”
This new report is a particularly encouraging moment for Genprex, as the study doesn’t come from the company’s own research work but instead verifies its value through an independent source. With multiple teams and researchers in multiple locations all evaluating and studying TUSC2 as a potential source for cancer treatment, the evidence is mounting that this approach may provide something new and valuable for doctors and patients.
Gene Therapy to Tackle Breast Cancer
Like many of the most promising cancer treatments, Genprex’s TUSC2 treatment is a form of gene therapy.
A technology less than 50 years old, gene therapy remains on the cutting edge of modern medicine. The approach involves delivering new genetic material into the patient’s body, where it is absorbed by cells. This rewrites the code of those cells, changing how they grow, reproduce, spread and die.
The growth and death of cells is fundamental to the challenge of cancer. Damaged genetic material leads cancer cells to develop in harmful ways and spread through the body, sometimes at a rapid rate. Treatments such as Genprex’s Oncoprex can be used to write over the harmful DNA code and introduce a new gene. The result is that cancer itself is rewritten to reduce its harm.
Genetic treatments vary in the way they affect the body’s cells. Some directly destroy cancerous cells. Others slow their reproduction, thereby reducing the spread of unhealthy tissue throughout the body. Other treatments make cells more susceptible to forms of treatment that might otherwise be ineffective.
TUSC2 treatment falls into both categories, helping cancer dells to die and preventing the growth of cancerous tumors. If successfully used, this approach could halt the growth of existing cancers and their spread through the body. TUSC2 is a vital element of treatment if cancer is to be prevented from running rampant through patients.
Genprex’s Oncoprex therapy delivers cancer-fighting genes by encapsulating them into nanoscale hollow spheres called nanovesicles. The nanovesicles are then administered intravenously. They flow through the bloodstream until they locate and are absorbed by the cancer cells. The TUSC2 gene then expresses proteins that are missing or in short supply, bringing the damaged cells closer to normal behavior. By rewriting the very fundamentals of the body, such treatments may save lives.
Disruptive Technology for the Medical Sector
“Disruptive” isn’t a term that’s often applied to medicine, where the aim is to avoid disrupting the health of the human body. But technology such Genprex’s Oncoprex immunogene therapy is disruptive precisely because it could improve doctors’ ability to preserve health. It may also change the course of cancer, as new technology often opens up new possibilities.
Since its first successful use in the 1980s, gene therapy has rightly been presented as a disruptive technology. It deals with health on a basic level, altering the building blocks of life. This is why Genprex was among the companies presenting at the 4th Annual Disruptive Growth Conference in New York this September. Oncoprex’s multimodal mechanism allows it to tackle cancer in a number of different ways, reducing the cancer’s spread, encouraging the death of cancer cells and modulating the response of the immune system to fight cancer. It can block mechanisms that cause resistance to other anti-cancer drugs and so increase the effectiveness of a broader course of treatment.
As both treatments and the business models of companies behind them develop, the battle against cancer is being transformed.
Founded more than 140 years ago, Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY) is one of the oldest players in the field of cancer treatment, a company that has spent more than a century making medicines to help people around the world. Lilly uses predictive and prognostic biomarkers to work out how a tumor is likely to behave and how it will respond to potential therapies. This approach allows more targeted treatment designed to tackle the patient’s specific cancer, thereby increasing the likelihood of success in any given case. LLY’s Verzenio treatment has been shown to be effective in cancer treatment, encouraging cell death and reducing the spread of tumors. The company’s strategy is a targeted one, concentrating on those cancer patients with the greatest need, and so providing the greatest possible impact from its medicines.
Another long-established company, Roche Holding (OTCQX: RHHBY) was one of the first to provide targeted treatments such as those offered by gene therapy. The world’s largest biotech company, Roche has poured a huge amount of resources into biopharmaceuticals and is a global leader in cancer treatments. The company recently announced the expanded use of its technology to identify TNBC patients and so to provide them with the targeted treatment they need to fight their cancer. The company’s support for cancer patients extends beyond better medicine for those in wealthy countries. Roche is a supporter of a health-care approach in South Africa that takes treatment to the rails, providing mobile health-care facilities and services that include breast cancer screening for people who might otherwise lack access.
A research-driven biopharmaceutical company, AbbVie Inc. (NYSE: ABBV) is working on new treatments for more than 15 different cancers, including forms of breast cancer. The company’s wide-ranging work means that insights from one area can affect work in another, allowing greater progress in the overall understanding of cancer and the development of specific, targeted treatments. AbbVie’s oncology research has increased dramatically over the past six years, often through partnerships with other companies, allowing a rich cross-fertilization of ideas.
Based in the United Kingdom, AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) benefits from its proximity to some of the finest minds in the world and an elite recruitment pool. Like AbbVie, AstraZeneca has been making breakthroughs in a wide range of cancer types. Research in collaboration with a Japanese company has recently led to promising results for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, as the company works to improve survival rates and quality of life for breast cancer patients.
With the attention of so many big players in the biopharmaceutical industry, promising treatments for cancer are developing fast.
For more information on Genprex, visit Genprex Inc. (NASDAQ: GNPX)
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