NIH supports local research effort with Small Business Innovative Research grant

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FORT WORTH, Texas—The University of North Texas Health Science Center is conducting research that may lead to new cancer treatments that could replace or augment conventional chemotherapy. The National Cancer Institute, of the National Institutes of Health, is supporting this research with a Small Business Innovative Research grant to Ångstrom Pharmaceuticals, Inc. of San Diego. The health science center, as Ångstrom’s research partner, will receive more than $170,000 for its work with the project.

The research effort will help further develop new anti-tumor therapy agents invented by Ångstrom. Research efforts that generate successful results in the laboratory can lead to clinical trials and eventually bring new drugs into the marketplace.

"Our work with Ångstrom Pharmaceuticals, Inc. may lead to new ways to fight cancer," said Ronald H. Goldfarb, PhD, director of UNT Health Science Center’s Institute for Cancer Research. "If we can prevent the outgrowth of metastases following their establishment at distant sites in the body where they are much more difficult to treat, we can increase the odds for long-term cancer survival."

The project will assess the efficacy of a cyclic peptide, called Å36. Initial research has shown that Å36 can stop the process that leads to tumor cell invasion, metastatic spread and new blood vessel formulation (angiogenesis). The study will use xenograft models of human colon cancer and prostate cancer.

Tumors use the process of angiogenesis to promote their growth and spread (metastasis). Drugs that block this process are expected to have a major impact on the treatment of most types of cancer. Unlike conventional chemotherapy, which targets rapidly growing cell populations and has serious side-effects, anti-angiogenic drugs are expected to be far less toxic and have little potential to induce drug resistance.

UNT Health Science Center researchers will evaluate Å36 for its anti-tumor activity and determine whether the drug is suitable for further pre-clinical development and eventual clinical testing. Other studies will examine the pharmacokinetics and toxicology of Å36.

The overall principal investigator is Terence R. Jones, PhD, president and chief executive officer of Ångstrom Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Dr. Goldfarb will work as principal investigator on two components of the grant, one of which Kenneth W. Brunson, PhD, deputy director of the Institute for Cancer Research, will serve as co-principal investigator. Richard P. Kitson, PhD, an Institute member and research associate professor at the health science center, will work as co-investigator on the other.

The grant supports the ongoing partnership between UNT Health Science Center and Ångstrom. The company has funded previous cancer research at the health science center to investigate the effects of another of its drugs, Å6, on human non-small cell lung cancer metastases. Moreover, Dr. Goldfarb and Dr. Kitson are co-principal investigators on a state of Texas Advanced Technology Grant (ATP) investigating the effects of Å6 plus anti-cancer chemotherapy. Dr. Goldfarb also serves on Ångstrom’s Scientific Advisory Board.

San Diego-based Ångstrom Pharmaceuticals (www.angstrominc.com) was formed in 1996 to add a new dimension to drug discovery. It is committed to discovering small-molecule drugs that block extracellular cytokine-receptor interactions responsible for "switching on" disease processes. The company has chosen cancer as its first focus and is currently outlicensing its proprietary drugs that target solid tumor growths and metastasis.

UNT Health Science Center’s Institute for Cancer Research was developed in January 1999 to study how cancer spreads in the human body. The Institute contributes to new approaches for cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

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