28 Feb '12
Oleg Kouzbit, Online News Managing Editor
In a further onslaught on cancer Russia’s Avionco from outside Moscow is pushing its brand new drug candidate that the developer hopes will successfully fight androgen-independent prostate tumors. Backed by the RF government, Avionco wants to move to clinical trials later this year. It is yet another in a long series of Russian science’s breakthroughs on the cancer front.
Over the past 12-14 months Avionco is said to have been developing and testing its next gen androgen receptor antagonist—a drug candidate that the company and its backers believe will make a huge difference in treating what physicians refer to as castration-resistant prostate cancer.
A deadly enemy of many men over 50, the deleterious neoplasm is also considered a most ‘elusive’ form of prostate cancer that has denied scientists any means of countering it so far.
With early preclinical trial results in hand Avionco and its parent firm, Moscow-based ChemRar High Tech Center, claim the candidate effectively inhibits androgen-dependent gene expression and deters the proliferation of malignant cells. These proven therapeutic properties are believed to be superior to a number of androgen receptor antagonists currently in clinical use, including bicalutamide, and, as the developers feel, can compete in in-vitro action with the MDV3100 innovative drug, the core of a new prostate cancer therapy in the U.S. undergoing clinical testing these months.
According to Avionco CEO Nikolai Merkin, the firm is moving to clinical trials of its advanced antagonist “in the nearest future.”
The researchers and backers
Located in the town of Khimki just outside Moscow, Avionco is a biomed start-up established to focus on the development of innovative cancer therapies. In its research the company teams up with Khimki’s Research Institute for Chemical Diversity, a privately owned center for experimental oncology that reportedly develops cancer simulation techniques and does extensive preclinical trials of candidate molecules.
ChemRar, its parent firm, is one of Russia’s largest private biomed R&D centers with a presence in the US, European and South-East Asian pharma markets.
According to ChemRar, government support for Avionco’s effort came from Russia’s Bortnik Fund, a government-run institution set up in 1994 to back small innovative companies.
Prostate cancer now ranks fourth-to-second among most common malignancies in men, according to contrasting estimations, and is believed to be the fifth most frequently diagnosed cancer overall.
World Cancer Research Fund reports that each year about 400,000 new cases are diagnosed, with more than half registered in the United States alone. Nearly three-quarters of the recorded cases occur in developed countries.
Prostate cancer death rates are assumed to vary hugely across the globe (from 46.8 per 100,000 people in Dominica to a reported zero in Kiribati, according to Worldlifeexpectancy.com). For a most afflicted nation, the U.S., its National Cancer Institute forecasts more than 28,000 deaths from prostate cancer in 2012.
In Russia, the incidence of prostate cancer is still believed to account for about 30% of that in the United States; however, its mortality rate is growing and may draw level with America and Europe within years, calling for Russia’s urgent moves to stop the ‘males’ bane.’
Refusing to throw in the towel
With an estimated six million new cancer cases diagnosed globally each year, including all forms of prostate cancer, Russian biomed companies are stepping up efforts to curb the killer.
NewVac, another ChemRar subsidiary, is testing its new low-molecular compounds expected to dramatically improve the company’s therapeutic anti-tumoral vaccine technology, and is teaming up with the U.S.’ Agenus in their joint Oncophage vaccine program.
Moscow-based OncoMax is developing cutting-edge humanized monoclonal antibody drug. Privately-owned Human Stem Cell Institute has engineered the SynBio project focused on development of histone H1-based oncology medicines.
Away east in Siberia, Tomsk’s Siberian State Medical University is harnessing polyvalent iodine based radio (y-emitting) tracers to ensure an “unparalleled level of accuracy” in positron emission tomography (PET) cancer diagnostics; and Novosibirsk’s Budker Nuclear Physics Institute has applied boron-neutron capture to its new elementary particle accelerator technology that is said to kill cancer.
Other researchers like the Medical Radiology Research Center in Obninsk, Kaluga region, are also lending a hand and expertise in the common cause.