Noxopharm Limited (ASX:NOX) Managing Director & CEO, Dr Graham Kelly, talks about the design, size and aims of the company's prostate cancer study at St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney.
Jessica Amir: Hello. Jessica Amir for the Finance News Network. Joining me from Noxopharm is Managing Director & CEO, Dr Graham Kelly. Grahham. Welcome back.
Jessica Amir: Graham, you made an announcement recently about a prostate cancer study at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. What was that all about?
Dr Graham Kelly: St Vincent’s is one of a small number of hospitals around the world who are trialling an experimental and very encouraging new treatment for men with prostate cancer, and we were invited to join them in that effort.
It’s a treatment that was developed originally in Germany as a clever way of getting radiotherapy to every cancer cell in every part of a man with prostate cancer’s body.
As this slide shows, late-stage prostate cancer in most men involves dozens, maybe hundreds, of tumours throughout the body. Radiotherapy is the best hope we have at the moment of hitting these tumours, but it just isn’t possible to expose the whole body to radiotherapy.
So the idea of this treatment is injecting the radiotherapy intravenously and letting it find its way to all of these tumours.
It involves injecting intravenously a peptide that recognises prostate cancer cells and will bind to those cancer cells. But like a Trojan horse, the peptide carries a payload of a radioactive substance that exposes the cancer cell to radiotherapy. In this way, the theory is that you can get radiation to every cancer cell, no matter where and no matter how small the tumour might be.
There have been probably 700 to 800 men treated this way around the world over the past 3-4 years, and the results so far are encouraging, but not spectacular. Most men respond to this treatment, but for most men, the response is incomplete and doesn’t last all that long. It’s extending life where no other therapy is working, so it’s worthwhile. But we and St Vincent’s believe we can do better.
The Study we are conducting at St Vincent’s is based on a simple proposition - that NOX66 will make the intravenous radiotherapy more effective. We believe that many cancer cells are escaping because not enough of radioactivity is reaching them. The idea is that the presence of NOX66 in the cancer cells will convert a weak radiotherapy effect into a lethal effect.
The St Vincent’s study is known as the LUPIN Study. Our aim is to see if we can make more men respond, with more complete responses, and keep those men in remission for a lot longer. And shareholders aren’t going to have to wait long to see whether we are successful. The first data is coming through now, and we hope to be in a position to provide interim data in August.
Jessica Amir: The Company also has announced another study in prostate cancer called DARRT-1. What is that all about, and how does it fit in with the St Vincent’s study?
Dr Graham Kelly: Both studies have the same objective, to use NOX66 to make radiotherapy a more effective form of therapy in prostate cancer.
The difference lies in how the radiotherapy is given. In the St Vincent’s study, it is given intravenously. In the DARRT study, it is given by the more standard external method.
External beam radiation is the standard form of radiotherapy in late-stage prostate cancer. The aim simply is to relieve pain or pressure from one or two larger tumours. This is a predominantly palliative treatment, not curative. And often the tumours are in sensitive areas such as the spine, which means that the dose of radiotherapy needs to be kept low.
The rationale using NOX66 is the same as before - to use NOX66 to enhance the effect of the radiotherapy.
We are looking for two outcomes here. The first is that those one or two tumours that are receiving radiotherapy, instead of shrinking maybe 50% in size for several months, will show much greater shrinkage in the presence of NOX66. If we can achieve that, then we will have done something important and completely disruptive to how we currently manage late-stage prostate cancer. This in itself, would be a significant development.
The second outcome is the possibility that all of the cancers in the body, not just the one or two exposed to radiotherapy, will shrink or disappear as well. This is the abscopal response that we have been talking about for some time. But it is important, Jess, to note that we don’t expect to see an abscopal response in every patient.
And where we don’t, then the approach we are taking at St Vincent’s becomes the back-up treatment.
The DARRT study is recruiting well. There are 11 sites for this clinical trial in three countries and we anticipate the first data from this study becoming available in July.
Jess, the point of having TWO prostate cancer studies is both a patient-orientated and commercial one. If one, or indeed BOTH, of these forms of treatment using NOX66 become available treatment for most men with late-stage prostate cancer, the financial outcome is potentially enormous. Cancer Australia statistics predict 17,700 males will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year in Australia. In the USA, 165,000 new cases are expected to be diagnosed. This is a very large and sadly, growing patient group.
Jessica Amir: Thank you so much for the update and good luck with the studies.
Dr Graham Kelly: Thank you