New drug for prostate cancer begins human trials

A new prostate cancer drug is starting human clinical trials in B.C. This drug is designed to target and shut down an advanced cancer when all other treatments have failed.

The drug was developed by researchers at the B.C. Cancer Agency and the University of British Columbia (UBC) and has both FDA and Health Canada approval for testing as an investigational drug.

“Today represents a significant milestone as we witness the fruits of our labour in the lab move to the clinic to potentially help men facing metastatic prostate cancer,” said Dr. Marianne Sadar, scientist at the B.C. Cancer Agency and UBC professor. “We faced one in 1,000 odds in developing a drug that would prove to be a candidate for patient trials.”

Sadar says they have been screening different drugs since 2003, explaining this discovery has been a long time in the making.

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Current drug therapies for advanced prostate cancer are initially effective in slowing tumour growth, but the cancer agency says these therapies eventually fail. So Sadar and UBC chemistry professor, Raymond Andersen, designed the new drug to shut down metastatic castrate resistant prostate cancer when other treatments have failed.

Dr. Marianne Sadar, discoverer of the new drug to battle advanced prostate cancer. Linda Aylesworth/Global News.

The new drug was engineered to target the opposite end from where all of the current drugs are being directed to. “This part that we are directing our drug to is the achilles heel of something call the androgen receptor,” says Sadar.

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EPI-560 is the first cancer drug developed by the B.C. Cancer Agency. Sadar says there are tremendous odds that you have to overcome to develop a drug, so she is proud this is a first for B.C. “It’s a very long and difficult road.”

Sadar explains their drug is setting a precedent in drug development because unlike other drugs around the world, EPI-560 is the first in history to target a structure that can change. This, she says, is like creating a key that opens a lock that constantly changes it’s keyhole.

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A Phase 1 multicentre clinical trial for the new drug,  EPI-506, opened Tuesday at the B.C. Cancer Agency and other sites in the USA.

B.C. Cancer Foundation received $2.6 million dollars in donations, which made the research possible.

More than 3,700 men in B.C. will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year; fundraising efforts such as Movember are intended to raise awareness about the disease.

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