An Australian biotech pioneer hopes a new company will give hope to cancer sufferers by stopping progression of the disease.

Science continues to significantly advance the treatment of cancer, which according to the World Health Organisation continues to be the leading cause of death globally.

The major challenge for doctors treating patients with advanced cancer is how to stop it changing into a more aggressive form and becoming metastatic and spreading throughout the body.

Treatment options for metastatic cancer remain poor, but new Australian biotech Filamon is working to fill that need and to block the mechanisms a cancer uses to change from a slow-growing, generally well-controlled disease into a life-threatening disease.

Filamon is under experienced stewardship, with Australian biotech pioneer Dr Graham Kelly as its CEO and co-founder, University of Sydney Professor of Medicine and leading medical oncologist, Professor Paul de Souza.

Kelly’s career in drug development began in the 1970s where his PhD at The University of Sydney’s Faculty of Medicine involved developing a novel drug for treatment of tissue rejection in kidney transplant recipients.

After leaving academia he went on to become a biotech entrepreneur, founding his first of 4 oncology drug development companies, all of which remain operational and listed.

Kelly’s connection with de Souza goes back to 1999 when de Souza ran a Phase 1 study on the very first anti-cancer drug Kelly developed and the two then worked together on and off over the years.

He said de Souza came to him asking him to help him work on what is a major new area of interest in cancer circles known as the tumour microenvironment (TME).

Only fixing half the problem

Kelly said up until now almost all cancer therapy has focused on killing cancer cells.

“Doctors are now realising that this is only treating half the problem,” he said.

“The other half of a tumour is all the normal-looking cells like blood vessels and nerve fibres and immune cells that act as life-support for a cancer and what we now refer to as the tumour’s microenvironment,” he said.

Kelly explained, “Ironically, doctors used to go out of their way to avoid harming these non-cancer tissues because they were seen as healthy cells. We now understand that they are not healthy because they act as cancer support cells, providing the cancer cells with all sorts of essential growth factors responsible for driving the growth and spread of a cancer.”

Bombarding both cancer cells and TME

Kelly said that Filamon believes the only way we are going to make any major progress in the survival of cancer patients is to address both sides of the problem – both the cancer cells and their support network.

“The current cancer treatments that kill cancer cells are probably perfectly good and already do a decent job, but are thwarted by the TME, which protects the cancer cells. What we need to do is come up with better ways to knock out the other half – the TME cells,” he said.

Filamon seeks to be a leader in the TME field

Kelly said Filamon is seeking to be a leader in the rapidly emerging field of developing drugs aimed at the TME.

Kelly explained that the interplay between the cancer cells and the TME cells is enormously complex, with likely dozens, if not hundreds, of different types of ‘conversations’ going on between cancer cells and TME cells.

Kelly said that a number of anti-TME drugs, like the immune checkpoint inhibitor drugs with their approximately US$20 billion annual sales, have come to market in the past 20 years. However, he pointed out that they have enjoyed limited success, likely due to them focusing on specific ‘conversations’ amidst many others.

He said Filamon’s strategy was to go back to the fundamentals of how the cancer cells were manipulating the TME cells in the first place and hope to block multiple ‘conversations’  between the cancer cells and the TME cells.

“We identified three main targets and went about finding drugs that would knock out those targets,” he said.

Two of the drugs are clinic-ready for further clinical trials in 2023, while the third drug is planned for clinical trials in 2024.

Kelly said the three drugs are intended to be added to standard treatments with the aim of blocking the transformation of a cancer from a relatively slow-growing disease into a fast-growing, lethal disease.

Filamon sees the possibility of its three drugs eventually being used in combination, providing a unique means of shutting down the TME in most types of cancer.

“We are not the only company looking at the TME but we are the only company I know of looking at the underlying forces that create the problem,” Kelly said.

Filamon currently is conducting an early funding round. Offer details and further information can be found by visiting the Company website at

Kelly also added that an IPO is under consideration within the next 12 months.

This article was developed in collaboration with Filamon, 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.