Starpharma’s (ASX:SPL) cancer drug has passed its first test, proving to be safe and delivering a recommended dose.

The company is taking a version of cancer drug Jevtana through phase 1 and 2 clinical trials, as a treatment for cancers including prostate, ovarian, cholangiocarcinoma and pancreatic.

Jevtana includes detergents in the formulation in order to combat neutropenia, a side effect where a person has a low level of neutrophils, the cells which help the body fight infection.

But the detergent can also result in anaphylaxis so patients must be pre-treated with corticosteroids and antihistamines before being treated for their cancer.

Starpharma’s version is detergent-free and formulated using its in-house dendrimer — or branched molecule — method, so the theory is patients won’t need pre-treatment for a side effect before being treated for cancer.


The phase 1 study of 14 people recommended a phase 2 dose of 20 mg/m2, and worked in 67 per cent of patients with “significant reductions” in tumour biomarkers in prostate, ovarian, cholangiocarcinoma and pancreatic cancers.

Jevtana is approved for the treatment of prostate cancer, but ovarian, pancreatic, and cholangiocarcinoma are not currently approved indications.

The next stage of the study is underway, with two new sites and recruitment starting.

Starpharma is better known right now for VivaGel, a product that fixes chronic bacterial vaginosis, an uncomfortable condition that is difficult to treat, and is also used as a coating for condoms as a barrier to HIV, herpes and human papillomavirus.

The cabazitaxel trial is part of the Dendrimer Enhanced Product (DEP) drug delivery platform. The company is also testing the docetaxel and irinotecan cancer drugs using this platform.


In other ASX health news:

Zoono Group (ASX:ZNO) has licensed Zoono China International Trading to use its name and sell Zoono products to farmers, food producers and processors in China, with one of the key focuses being African swine fever. The Chinese distribution deal of animal health products is for 10 years, with a minimum purchase of $NZ3.1m ($3m) in year one, rising to $NZ9.3m in year three, and thereafter increasing by 10 per cent a year.

Opioid grower Palla Pharma (ASX:PAL) has received an order for 10 tonnes of codeine phosphate from a European tablet maker, to be delivered in 2020. The contract is worth $US3m ($4.4m). The company’s Norway facility can now consistently producing 70 tonnes of codeine phosphate a year.