• Race Oncology appoints Associate Professor Erin Howden to scientific advisory board
  • Howden has researched adverse effects of chemotherapy on cardiovascular fitness of cancer patients
  • Appointment aims to bring Race Oncology’s new formulation of bisantrene to patients sooner


Special Report: Race oncology is further bolstering the expertise of its scientific advisory board with the appointment of an international cardiometabolic expert who has researched the effects of chemotherapy on cardiovascular fitness of cancer patients.

Clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company Race Oncology (ASX:RAC) has appointed Associate Professor Erin Howden, of the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, to its scientific advisory board.

Howden is an international cardiometabolic expert who has published +100 scientific publications on numerous topics, including the serious adverse effects that chemotherapy has on the cardiovascular fitness of cancer patients.

She is the head of the Cardiometabolic Health and Exercise Physiology Lab, co-lead of the physical program and co-chair of the research training and education committee at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.

Howden also holds an honorary senior research fellow position at the University of Melbourne and Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine.

In 2020, she honoured with a prestigious Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowship and recognised as an Emerging Leader by the Baker Institute, receiving the Sir Laurence Muir Prize.

Additionally, she serves as co-chair of the Cardio-oncology Exercise Rehab Working Group for the International Cardio-oncology Society.

As a researcher, Howden has secured more than $5 million in competitive grant funding and maintains an H-index of 28.


Research into cancer drugs on cardiovascular health

RAC says recent work by Howden and her collaborators has identified that VO2 peak is a highly sensitive and clinically relevant measure of the significant reductions in cardiorespiratory fitness experienced by many cancer patients following exposure to anthracyclines.

VO2 peak is the maximum oxygen consumption capacity of a person, a measure of the ability of a person to undertake execise.

The work found anthracycline-containing treatments reduced average VO2 peak levels in cancer patients by 11% – equivalent to 11 years of normal ageing – with the rates of functional disability nearly doubling.

In the same cancer patient population, currently used metrics of chemotherapy-induced cardiac damage, including reductions in left ventricular ejection fraction or (LVEF) showed no significant change (59% versus 58%).

Howden’s appointment to the RAC scientific advisory board aims to help RAC further accelerate its core work of bringing to market the reformulated anti-cancer drug bisantrene.

This distinctive small molecule, anthracene-based chemotherapeutic not only possesses anti-cancer properties, but also exhibits reduced cardiotoxicity.

Race aims to show that bisantrene can lower the likelihood of heart damage, a common issue with many cancer therapies. It has an extensive track record in treating cancer patients, having been employed in over 50 clinical trials and administered to more than 1,500 patients.

In late 2023, RAC unveiled findings from a Phase 2 clinical trial in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) revealing a 40% overall response rate among patients in advanced stages not anticipated to respond to any treatment.

RAC earlier this month revealed preclinical data investigating a novel approach to using bisantrene at reduced doses in conjunction with the AML standard of care drug decitabine.


‘Incredible opportunity to accelerate our clinical program’

RAC chief executive Dr Daniel Tillett says he is thrilled to welcome Howden to RAC’s scientific advisory board.

“It is no overstatement to say that Erin and her collaborators’ discoveries have provided
Race with an incredible opportunity to accelerate our clinical program and bring our new formulation of bisantrene to patients sooner,” he says.

“The importance of VO2 peak as a clinically relevant endpoint in cardiology is well established, but its use is highly innovative in oncology.

“The entire team at Race is looking forward to drawing on Erin’s insights and experience as we advance bisantrene through the clinic in 2024 and beyond.”

Howden says she is delighted to be joining the RAC scientific advisory board.

“I am passionate about reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease for cancer patients and I am looking forward to sharing my expertise to help tackle this major problem in cancer survivorship,” she says.


This article was developed in collaboration with Race Oncology, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.

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