Not many medical researchers have more incentive than Dr Graham Kelly.

While working to develop drugs that make cancer treatments work better, the 71-year-old developed prostate cancer himself.

After exhausting all treatment options, Dr Kelly decided to take a chance on his own experimental drug – which had only ever worked in the laboratory.

“I was facing death — there’s no other way of putting it,’’ he later told Tim Boreham in The Australian.

The cancer-surviving doc was then the CEO of Novogen (ASX:NRT), a biotech group once worth $800 million.

These days Novogen is worth around $20 million and Dr Kelly continues his research with new drug developer, Noxopharm (ASX:NOX), which listed last year in a $6 million Initial Public Offering.

The drug, known these days as NOX66, works in conjunction with current chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy which targets the source of a cancer.

Noxopharm, currently promoting NOX66 on a roadshow through Singapore and Hong Kong, plans to report on initial trial results before Christmas – and have a drug on the market within five years.

“We expect to know by end of 2017 of the success of our mission,” the company reported this month in its roadshow presentation.

“We aim to be in a registration study by end of 2018 [and] to have marketing approval by 2022.”

Registration studies are completed with regulators such as the US Food and Drug Administration as a precursor to market approval.

Noxopharm has no earnings at this stage. The company spent $1.08 million in the June quarter, leaving $2.55 million cash and equivalents. It expects to spend $1.25 million in the current quarter.

How does NOX66 work?

Cancer treatments have remained largely unchanged over the past 50 years as researchers came up against the problem of the body’s tendency to fight the very treatment it’s being given to attack the cancer.

When chemotherapy and radiotherapy start to break down the cancer in the body, the immune system responds to repair the damage.

This can undo the work of the cancer treatment – but not be enough to repair the damage done by the cancer itself.

NOX66 attempts to isolate the cancer cells and decrease their ability to self-repair during the oncology process, enabling the body to respond to the chemotherapy or radiotherapy as the treatments were initially designed.

It is considered an enhancement drug to existing treatment options.

Trials underway

There are some 260 cancer immunotherapy trials listed on the Australian Government site.

The US is hosting nearly 1500 clinical according to the US National Institutes of Health’s

Targeting of T-cells has been the focus in recent years, with Australia leading the way in this research.

NOX66 is in a number of clinical trials for the treatment of prostate cancer – including one at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney (in conjunction with Peter McCallum Cancer Centre Melbourne).

Other trials are taking place to determine treatment for other types of cancer including breast and lung cancer.

The active ingredient in NOX66, Indroxonil, is a small-molecule drug and is considered an experimental treatment, alongside other experimental treatments including immunotherapy, brachytherapy and hormone therapy.

Cancer treatment using small-molecule drugs and immunotherapy, or immuno-oncology, is a booming area of research to say the least.

While some of these kinds of therapies are approved for treatment in Australia and are available on the PBS for common cancers, patients with rare cancers often resort to experimental treatments that can cost $5000 per injection, per month.

Dr Kelly has high praise for the Australian government R&D incentive which he says has boosted the science community after a rough few years. Victoria in particular is embracing the bioscience industry through development and manufacturing, he says.

Sharon Smith is a health, science and technology journalist. She has served as the past editor for Australian Hospital and Healthcare Bulletin, staff writer for PC Mag Australia and has written for tech publications in the US. She is on Twitter @smsmithwriter


This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.