Cancer researchers awarded grant to further breast cancer drug

Joyce Schroeder, PhD, University of Arizona Cancer Center member and professor of molecular and cellular biology, and Todd D. Camenisch, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology, were recently awarded a grant from the National Cancer Institute to further develop a drug to treat metastatic breast cancer.

This one-year, $300,000 Phase 1 Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award is shared between their biotechnology company, Arizona Cancer Therapeutics, LLC (ACT), and the Schroeder lab at UACC. The award, “Decoy Peptides: Development of a Novel Therapeutic to Metastatic Cancer,” will provide for investigational new drug studies to be performed, which will aid in future applications to the Food and Drug Administration for clinical trials.

“The entire research team and partnering oncologists are very optimistic about moving our drug forward into clinical trials. In preclinical trials, this drug has shown strong anti-tumor activity and no toxicity,” said Dr. Schroeder. “If we meet all the mileposts stated in this Phase 1 stage, we can then apply for Phase 2 status and begin the clinical trials process within the next year or two.”

The drug is based on novel protein interactions that occur only in metastatic cancer and not in normal cells, and promises to be both highly effective and non-toxic. Dr. Schroeder began working on this specific drug in 2003.

“This represents a major advancement, as well as a significant sign of support for our drug technology by the National Cancer Institute,” said Dr. Camenisch, the President and CEO of Arizona Cancer Therapeutics.

The STTR program is designed to help early-stage biotechnology companies develop promising technology for commercialization and delivery into clinical care. This represents a major milestone for ACT, as well, as this company pursues development of innovative therapeutics to stop metastatic breast cancer and other types of cancers. Dr. Schroeder’s team has been discovering and defining specific causes of breast cancer for two decades and created novel drugs to disrupt these signals.

Arizona Cancer Therapeutics was formed by Drs. Schroeder and Camenisch, both faculty members at the University of Arizona. Dr. Schroeder is the Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder of ACT. She has discovered novel peptide therapeutics that disrupt specific signals that drive metastatic cancer. Dr. Schroeder and Dr. Camenisch created ACT as a platform biotech company to further develop the first-in-class patented peptide drugs specific to breast cancer and potentially other types of cancers.

Partnering UACC oncologists include Alison Stopeck, MD, and David S. Alberts, MD. Arizona Cancer Therapeutics holds several patents with several more provisional patents in process.

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- Oct. 25, 2013