One of the most common and most disruptive drawbacks of existing cancer chemotherapies is the toxic effect of bone marrow suppression that can result from a patient’s exposure to ionized radiation.
The loss of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets can cause anemia, fatigue and can increase the risk of infection, among other things.
But a Research Triangle Park startup thinks it’s found a way to tame those side effects and protect bone marrow and other organs during chemotherapy with a simple, small molecule drug, and it’s just gotten a $763,000 venture investment to help bring that drug to the clinic.
Jay Strum, president of G1 Therapeutics (formerly G-Zero Therapeutics), said the company’s seed round was led by RTP venture firm Hatteras Ventures and will be used to move the radiation therapy drug toward IND-enabling studies, with the hope of reaching clinical trials within two years.
The IV-administered drug could be used as an adjunct to existing chemotherapies, he said. If it’s proven effective, it could not only improve quality of life for chemotherapy patients but also allow for more consistent dose scheduling. “Generally, patients come in and take a dose of chemo and come back the following week. And sometimes they can’t take [the] next dose because their blood cell count is too low, so they have to come back the following week to have their blood checked,” Strum said. “It really messes up their treatment schedule.”
Drugs including Amgen’s Aranesp, Eopgen and Neupogen; Janssen’s Procrit and Pfizer’s Neumega are used to treat various effects of bone marrow suppression, but G1’s drug candidate works differently. Co-founder Dr. Norman Sharpless explains in the video below:
The cancer drug market grew dramatically between 2005 and 2010, but recent market research has indicated that it may be slowing down. Still, the direct medical costs of cancer topped $102 billion in 2010, with another $160 billion spent because of lost productivity from illness and premature death. The drug has additional application in national defense.
G1 was founded in 2008 by Sharpless at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and Dr. Kwok-Kin Wong at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard Medical School with the help of Carolina KickStart, a program at UNC that works to turn university research into new companies. Previously, the company received a $600,000 phase 1 SBIR grant in 2009 followed by a $3 million phase 2 grant last year.
[Photo from Flickr user Phil and Pam]