Market need and potential
Breast cancer is the most common cancer disease in women worldwide. About 15% of these cancers are triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), a highly aggressive, highly metastasizing, and hard-to-treat breast cancer subtype that is more common in young women under 40 years old. Treatment options of TNBC are very limited as this type of breast cancer does not respond to commonly used breast cancer treatments, like hormone therapy or HER2 protein receptor drugs. Furthermore, TNBC exhibits a predisposition for chemoresistance and a high recurrence rate, which leads to a poor prognosis, shorter survival time and a high mortality rate of TNBC patients within the first five years. Thus, new innovative treatment approaches are required. As our need analysis indicated, the market is in need for improved cancer drugs with either increased patient survival, diminished cancer recurrence, reduced toxicity or to bring improvements to the quality and length of TNBC patients´ lives.
Our innovation is a new type of cancer drug that effectively and selectively eradicates aggressive TNBC by targeting so called G-quadruplex DNA structures. Taking advantage of the often impaired DNA repair system in cancer cells, our molecules induce fatal DNA damage by binding and stabilizing G-quadruplex structures. Furthermore, because cancer cells contain more G-quadruplex DNA structures than healthy cells, targeting cancer via the G-quadruplex DNA pathway confers selectivity to the treatment. This approach has an advantage over current DNA damaging drugs on the market which are also harmful for healthy cells. Our compound will therefore be more effective against cancer cells, which will reduce the risk of drug-induced side effects.
Today, there are no G-quadruplex DNA-targeting drugs available in the clinics. A G-quadruplex stabilizer, Pidnarulex, is in Phase I/II trials to treat breast cancer (Senhwa Biosciences Inc.) and was granted fast track designation by the FDA showing the potential of targeting G-quadruplex structures. In preliminary experiments, our lead compounds showed higher potency on inducing cancer cell death than Pidnarulex.
The benefits of our innovation are four-fold: novel treatment approach for TNBC, reduced side-effects, low production costs, and lower socio-economic costs. By targeting G-quadruplex structures, our drug could provide a novel approach for treating TNBC, which can result in more efficient cancer cell death and consequently a higher success rate of the treatment. Our treatment approach will be more selective to cancer cells compared to healthy cells, and therefore will reduce side-effects on healthy cells. Our innovation is a small molecule and thus more cost-effective to produce. These improvements would also reduce the socio-economic costs that are connected to cancer.