Funding supports development of two new malignant glioma drugs.
In just three years since the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) launched its Discovery Grant program, the organization is pleased to announce that its funding has aided the development of two new brain tumor drugs that target malignant gliomas such as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)—a common and aggressive type of malignant brain tumor.
While meeting with leading scientists and neuro-oncologists this week at the Society for Neuro-Oncology’s Annual Conference in San Francisco, Calif., ABTA President and CEO Elizabeth M. Wilson is optimistic about the interest shown in taking innovative approaches to the treatment of brain tumors.
“Most encouraging to us is that these drugs work differently than existing therapies,” said Wilson “They represent entirely new treatment approaches and they show real progress and hold real hope for brain tumor treatment breakthroughs.”
Still in the very early phases of development and years away from human testing, these results reflect the intended goal of the ABTA Discovery Grant program to bring new drugs to the testing stage and build a promising pipeline of therapies for further research.
One of the drugs has been selected for follow-on funding by a venture capital firm, the other has given rise to a new biopharmaceutical company.
Starving Cancer Cells of Energy
David S. Baskin, M.D., and Martyn A. Sharpe, Ph.D., Department of Neurosurgery at the Houston Methodist Hospital and Dallas-based Remeditex Ventures LLC, have entered into an agreement to develop one of these new drugs, called MP-MUS. Shown to kill human GBM in cell culture, MP-MUS is now being tested against GBM in a mouse brain model. The drug is designed to be converted into a highly toxic form by a specific enzyme which is only highly expressed in GBM. The active form of the drug attacks the cancer cell’s powerhouse—mitochondria. Damaged mitochondria starve the cancer cells of energy, eventually killing the GBM cells.
Another ABTA-funded study, being conducted by Rajesh Mukthavaram, Ph.D. in the lab of Santosh Kesari, M.D., Ph.D., is advancing research into small molecule inhibitors that target a protein called OLIG2. This protein– which is not active in normal brain tissue–plays an important role because large amounts of OLIG2 are found in almost all gliomas, including GBM. The abundance of this protein drives tumor growth and promotes resistance to radiation therapy. OLIG2 inhibitors will be given following the conclusion of primary treatment, such as surgery, to complement the conventional therapeutic approach. The OLIG2 technology is licensed to San Diego-based Curtana Pharmaceuticals, of which Kesari is a co-founder.
ABTA Discovery Grants are one-year, $50,000 awards that fund high-impact projects with the potential to change current diagnostic or treatment paradigms for adult and pediatric brain tumor care. The ABTA’s $1.6 million investment in innovative science has grown into $3.2 million in follow-on funds—a testament to discovery science potential to change the way brain tumors are diagnosed or treated. To learn more, visit www.abta.org/advancing-research/.
ABOUT THE AMERICAN BRAIN TUMOR ASSOCIATION
Founded in 1973, the American Brain Tumor Association was first and is now the only national organization committed to funding brain tumor research and providing support and education programs for all tumor types and all age groups. For more information, visit http://www.abta.org.
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