Thursday, November 21, 2013

SixOne Solutions Developing CU's Targeted Breast Cancer Therapy

By inhibiting two proteins not currently targeted by conventional cancer treatments, CU’s platform could block the growth and migration of cancer cells with fewer side effects, and reduce tumor resistance to chemotherapy and radiation.

AURORA, Colo., November 21, 2013 – SixOne Solutions and the University of Colorado (CU) have completed an exclusive license agreement, allowing the company to develop new, targeted therapeutics for treating and preventing the spread of breast cancer with far fewer expected side effects than traditional chemotherapy.

A research team at the CU School of Medicine led by Heide Ford, Ph.D., and Rui Zhao, Ph.D., has identified two proteins, Six1 and Eya2, that play key roles in the growth and spread of cancer cells. Importantly, while these proteins are also active in normal embryonic development, they are inactive in most healthy adult tissue. As a result, the therapeutics developed by the Ford/Zhao group to inhibit Six1 and Eya2 are expected to have minimal effects on healthy cells, while specifically targeting cancer cells – this targeting means fewer or minimal side effects.

Six1 and Eya2 are highly active in a majority of breast cancer tumors, including difficult-to-treat triple-negative tumors. These two proteins are also active in many other types of cancer, including ovarian, cervical and pancreatic cancer, gliomas, and Ewing’s Sarcoma; thus, the Six1/Eya2 inhibitors being commercialized by SixOne Solutions may be effective across a wide variety of cancers. What’s more, it is anticipated that they will be able to be combined with existing chemotherapies due to their low expected toxicity to healthy cells. Use of combination therapies reduces the development of tumors that are resistant to treatment, and helps prevent relapse.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women. Currently, chemotherapy and radiation are the main methods of treatment, along with surgery. Chemotherapy, which affects healthy as well as cancerous cells, causes severe and sometimes fatal side effects. Immediate side effects of chemotherapy can include nausea, vomiting, hair loss and diarrhea, while long-term side effects can include infertility and even the development of a second cancer. Targeted drugs have been developed, but are only effective in patients with specific genetic mutations, typically 20 to 30 percent of breast cancer patients.

“New drug development is a long process, but we are doing all we can to move this exciting new treatment approach into the clinic as soon as we can,” said Ginny Orndorff, SixOne’s CEO. The company was recently awarded a $50,000 BioScience Discovery Evaluation Grant from the State of Colorado to evaluate the effectiveness of these drugs in patients with triple-negative breast cancer.

 Ford, an associate professor of pharmacology, and Zhao, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics, co-founded SixOne Solutions earlier this year to commercialize their research in this area.

“Drs. Ford and Zhao are working on a truly novel and exciting cancer therapy,” said David Poticha of the CU Technology Transfer Office. “The university is confident that their collaboration with Ginny Orndorff and SixOne creates a significant opportunity to advance this therapy into clinical development.”

About SixOne Solutions
SixOne Solutions LLC is a biopharmaceutical company developing novel products for the treatment and diagnosis of breast cancer. Their initial product is a small molecule, targeted therapeutic for breast cancer that may also be effective in treating many other cancers, including ovarian, cervical, and pancreatic cancer, as well as gliomas, Wilms’ tumor and Ewing’s Sarcoma.

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