Novogen and Feinstein Institute join forces to find effective treatments for brain cancer

Collaboration brings together the drug discovery expertise of Novogen and the preclinical and clinical expertise of the Feinstein Institute in neurosciences and oncology

US-Australian drug discovery company Novogen has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research to develop effective treatments for brain cancers. At the heart of the collaboration is the company's super-benzopyran (SBP) drug technology platform, distinguished by its ability to kill the full spectrum of cells within a tumour, including both rapidly and slowly dividing cancer cells (tumour-initiating cells).

The three key areas of research will be:

  • the development of lead SBP drug candidate, TRXE-009, as a treatment of both primary and secondary brain cancer in adults and children, including glioblastoma and medulloblastoma
  • the potential ability of the SBP technology (based on early evidence) to deliver an entirely novel approach to chemotherapy by converting cancer stem cells into stem cells displaying normal stem cell behaviour
  • the development of drug candidates as radio-sensitisers designed to augment the effectiveness of radiotherapy in treating brain cancers.

TRXE-009 (Trilexium) is a pan-acting cytotoxic molecule that is on track to enter the clinic in early 2016 for the treatment of solid and non-solid cancers. A particularly high activity against melanoma cells has been announced previously and malignant melanoma is expected to be a key clinical indication to be pursued.

Novogen CEO, Graham Kelly, PhD, said: ‘We are confident that we have found the drug that can successfully treat cancers arising in the brain, as well as cancers that spread to the brain from elsewhere. The ability of TRXE-009 to kill brain cancer stem-like cells gives us particular confidence that we can finally kill off the root cause of any cancer within the brain.

‘The proviso is that we can deliver it across the blood-brain barrier, and that is something that we will not know with any certainty until we bring TRXE-009 into the clinic. The collaboration with the Feinstein Institute is designed to maximise that likelihood. If we can do that, then we have a good chance of delivering breakthrough treatment options to adults and children with primary brain cancers and for patients with cancers such as melanoma that involve the brain and elsewhere.’

Using models developed in the laboratory by the Feinstein Institute, the ability of TRXE-009 to treat various forms of human brain cancer will be studied using a variety of new approaches, such as direct micro-injection into the brain (convection enhanced delivery) and intravenous administration with a range of constructs known to facilitate the transport of drugs across the blood-brain barrier, some of which have been developed by Novogen chemists.

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