Pharmaxis, maker of drugs designed to fight fatty liver disease, has added a new indication to its clinical lineup: pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer affects about 3,000 Australians a year and has a poor five-year survival rate, according to the Cancer Council.

Pharmaxis (ASX:PXS) is testing an anti‐fibrotic Lysyl Oxidase (LOX) inhibitor, an oral once‐a‐day drug that inhibits all lysyl oxidase family members (LOX, LOXL1, 2, 3 & 4).

Lysyl oxidase is a protein encoded by the LOX gene, and its upregulation — increase in response to an external stimulus — by tumour cells can cause cancer.

Pharmaxis told investors this morning it had dosed the first patient in Phase I safety and tolerability trials. 56 healthy patients will be treated all up with results due out in June.

“Moving a new drug into the clinic for the first time is always a significant milestone and this will be the fourth time we have accomplished this during the last 5 years,” said chief Gary Phillips.

“I’m delighted with the productivity of the Pharmaxis team and excited about the potential of this drug to bring a new approach to therapy for hard to treat stromal tumours like pancreatic cancer.

“Our current plan is that a successful phase 1 trial outcome would be the launch pad for a quick transition into cancer patients and to that end we are already in discussion with key opinion leaders and working on potential trial designs.”

Pharmaxis shares were flat on the news at 25.5c.

Pharmaxis (ASX:PXS) shares over the past year.