Western Regional Blog – BC, YK, AB, NWT and Nunavut
Rick Madonik / TORONTO STAR By: Kamila Hinkson News reporter, Published on Tue Jun 18 2013
Two of the world’s foremost cancer researchers announced Tuesday the creation of a new drug aimed at preventing the growth of an array of cancers.
Tak Mak, director of the Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and Dr. Dennis Slamon, of the University of California, Los Angeles, are part of the 100- person team that developed the drug, which has been tested on human ovarian, breast, pancreas, lung and colon cancer in mice.
The researchers are calling the drug a “sharpshooter” for its ability to target a specific enzyme, rather than take a “one-size fits all” approach, Slamon explained to reporters at a Toronto news conference.
“It’s taken a long time, and I have known many patients and I know many people who have been affected,” Mak said, choking back tears. His wife died of breast cancer in 1998. He and Slamon, who treated his wife, have been friends for years.
Mak discovered the human T-cell receptor, the key component of the immune system. That discovery, he said, was academic.
“This is not in the same league. This is way above,” he said.
Slamon is best known for developing the drug Herceptin, which treats metastasized breast cancer and has been found to cut the risk of cancer recurrence in half.
Developed by an international team of researchers, the new drug, called CFI-400945, has so far cost $40 million to produce. It was funded by donations.
A 4,000-page application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was filed in April and a submission to Health Canada was made Monday. The team hopes to begin testing the drug on humans in clinical trials later this year.
The initial reaction from the FDA was “favourable,” Mak said, noting it made some suggestions that are to be reviewed.
Mak said the drug responded “spectacularly” when tested on human breast and ovarian cancer in mice.
At this point, the drug is focused on the treatment and not prevention of cancer, he said, although he didn’t rule out the possibility that further testing might yield some insight on prevention.
The drug is the result of research on PLK4, an enzyme involved in the process of cell division, including cancer cells.