Here’s what we’re getting wrong about the war against cancer
Health & Biotech
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The perception of cancer as one incurable disease is wrong, according to a director of one of the ASX’s most prominent cancer fighters.
Phillip Lynch, who joined the board of Race Oncology (ASX:RAC) last week, says cancer is a war fought on multiple fronts.
“Broadly, I think the general population views cancer as a single disease because we hear that single word,” he told Stockhead.
“The truth is every one is dramatically different and cancer cells themselves, which cause difficult outcomes for people in different situations, are themselves dynamic and adaptable.
“The world is working addressing lots of different cancers of which there are over 100. If you look at survival rates there has been progress made in recent decades so you’re getting more innovation and with that innovation you’re making significant progress in patient survival.”
Race is targeting a rare cancer called Acute Myeloid Leukaemia with a drug called Bisantrene.
Bisantrene had passed clinical trials in the 1980s and 1990s. Unfortunately, it was hindered by big pharmaceutical mergers where drugs targeting smaller markets get discarded.
Race has picked up the drug and now is running clinical trials of its own. The drug not only fights cancer but does so in ways that do not harm other parts of the body, particularly the heart.
“There are a lot of drugs similar in efficacy but what makes Bisantrene unique is it’s effective at not causing cardio toxicity,” Lynch told Stockhead.
“You can have drugs that are effective, that can kill the disease and remove the disease cells but but in the process damage the heart.
“Bisantrene has a unique point of difference in not causing cardio-toxicity — it’s heart friendly versus other cancer drugs.”
While it is still early days, the stock has surged from 6 cents to over 30 cents in the past year.
The rise came off the back of excitement about new investors and progress with its AML clinical trial being carried out at the Sheba Medical Centre in Israel. Recruitment concluded in March having taken only 8 months.
But the company has other targets in its sights. One of these is breast cancer where it began a preclinical research program last month.
Lynch believes the impact will extend beyond patients’ health to their hip pockets. The economics of healthcare is an increasing concern in the larger markets even though it can be an afterthought for clinical-stage biotechs.
“The cost of healthcare is exploding and I think, ultimately, we all value our health and we’ll continue to invest more and more,” Lynch said.
“So the demographics favour growing health care markets and budgets – but governments are very challenged by rising expenditure.
“The other dynamic that is critical is health economics. When we develop a new drug the question is: is that drug creating better outcomes for the patient versus the current standard of treatment?
“If Bisantrene creates an equivalent outcome therapeutically, meaning it removes disease but reduces future side effects then the lifecycle for a Bisantrene-treated customer may be lower cost for that patient, the prescriber and the government funding these treatments.”