Inhibiting compounds was still in a relative state of infancy, as research into angiogenesis shows a decade ago. As far back as the early ’70s, the principle itself was not new. There was speculation that without obtaining their own blood supply, human cancer tumors could not grow beyond a few millimeters in diameter. However, in the scientific community, opinion was still divided.
A natural and necessary physiological function is described as angiogenesis which refers to the process by which new blood vessels form and develop. However, angiogenesis in its pathological form is also implicated in the progression of more than 20 different diseases, including cancer.
Solid tumors need to be supplied by blood vessels that act as conduits for oxygen and nutrients to grow. Cancerous cells can then invade the rest of the body, a process called metastasis once a vascular network has been generated around a tumor. The formation of new blood vessels is blocked by Angiogenesis inhibitors. Without new blood vessels, cancerous cells are starved and tumors cannot grow.
The therapeutic potential of angiogenesis inhibitors has gained wide acceptance in recent years. More than 90 percent of all cancer cases are angiogenesis dependent, as the scientific community now believes. More than 100 research organizations and companies are currently developing angiogenesis-blocking drugs an in angiogenic research, the industry spends nearly $4 billion annually.
The forefront of this effort is Æterna Laboratories Inc. It is one of the very few biotechnology companies in the world with an angiogenesis-blocker in Phase lll clinical development. Neovastat, its proprietary compound is recently the subject of Phase III trials in lung and kidney cancer and a Phase ll trial in multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer.
Multiple mechanisms of action that counteract the angiogenic process are possessed by Neovastat. This makes it unique among competing products. An excellent safety profile in clinical trials also has shown by it. Oral-administered Neovastat has further advantages that make it convenient for patients who must done treatment on a long-term basis, and it may be taken in association with standard therapies such as chemotherapy.
However, angiogenesis blockers are not a cancer’s cure. In the same way that insulin is a treatment for diabetes, they are a form of treatment that should allow patients to lead a more normal life, without suffering from the often debilitating side effects that some treatments can produce.
Forms of cancer for which have an urgent need for new therapies has been targeted by Æterna’s clinical trials strategy. Neovastat has been tested in more than 850 patients in North American and European countries since 1996. Targeting three forms of cancer, Neovastat is the subject of three clinical trials recently. The drug for the second most common form of blood cancer, multiple myeloma, is in Phase II trials with 125 patients in the United States, Canada and Europe. In early 2003, this trial should be completed. The drug for progressive renal cell carcinoma r is in Phase III trials with 302 patients in the United States, Canada and Europe, which also should be completed in early 2003. In the US and Canada, Neovastat is in a Phase III trial for non-small cell lung cancer, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute with 760 patients and the trial should be completed in 2005.
Health authorities in various countries can then assess these results and make decisions on approval once the clinical trials are complete.