[ASC-media] New Personalised Medicine Attacks Cancer Stem Cells

Daniella Goldberg DGoldberg at bcg.com.au
Mon Dec 10 22:55:49 CET 2007

New Personalised Medicine Attacks Cancer Stem Cells


Tuesday 11 December 2007

Australian scientists have discovered a personalized medicine that kills
off the stem cells that lie at the core of many leukaemia cancers.


Scientists believe that some cancers arise from a small number of
aberrant cells that, like adult stem cells, have the ability to
self-renew and differentiate into multiple cell types. These cells often
persist in cancer patients in low numbers even following therapy, and
can cause cancer relapse. Therapies that effectively kill cancer stem
cells may thus hold promise for improving the treatment of cancer and
increasing survival from the disease.


A new medicine called omacetaxine mepesuccinate has demonstrated a
direct anti-cancer effect on leukaemic stem cells.  The medicine not
only kills the cancer stem cells, but also inhibits cancer cell growth
and greatly reduces a protein called Mcl-1, which is found in several
types of leukaemia and other cancers.  


Melbourne-based scientist Dr Greg Collier, who is also the CEO of
Australian biotechnology company, Chemgenex, co-presented these results
at an international hematology meeting in the US on the weekend. 


Dr Collier commented, "These findings show that our new personalized
medicine has the potential to treat a range of different leukaemias.
This is exciting news for patients with leukemia, and we will continue
to develop our new medicine in the hope of extending disease-free
survival in patients with this disease."


"Already, we have had a very positive response from twenty one chronic
myeloid leukemia (CML) patients taking part in an omacetaxine phase 2/3
clinical trial. A significant number of CML patients had an extended
disease-free survival" he added.


CML is cancer of the blood and bone marrow characterised by the
overproduction of undifferentiated white blood cells. Currently, whilst
there are effective treatments for some patients, there is no cure for


Leukaemia can develop in anyone, of any age, at any time, and CML
specifically is most likely to occur over the age of 50.  In 2007,
approximately 2,936 Australians are projected to have been diagnosed
with leukemia; the equivalent of 8 people every day.  It is projected
that between 2002 and 2011, the incidence of leukaemia will increase by
21.5% (Australian Leukaemia Foundation).  


The first line of treatment for the majority of CML cancer patients is a
drug called Gleevec.  Unfortunately, an increasing number of CML
patients are developing resistance to Gleevec meaning that it is no
longer effective in keeping the cancer under control, resulting in a
need for an alternative therapy.  


Personalised medicines are drugs tailored specifically to a patient's
genes, that are designed to work far more efficiently and with reduced
side effects. Approved drugs such as the billion dollar anti-breast
cancer drug, Herceptin, are a good example of an effective personalised


Scientists have new evidence to show that resistance to Gleevec and
similar drugs is caused by a particular genetic mutation (T315I
mutation) associated with the cause of CML. This mutation is becoming
increasingly common in patients. The challenge has been to find a
personalised medicine that can fight off cancer caused by a specific
genetic mutation.


Media Contact:

Daniella Goldberg, Buchan Consulting
+61 2 9237 2800 / 0416 211 067
Images are available upon request

About ChemGenex Pharmaceuticals Limited             (www.chemgenex.com)
ChemGenex Pharmaceuticals is an Australia-US biotechnology company
developing personalised medicines for cancer. 






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