Oncology company PharmAust (ASX: PAA) is finally ready to go large on testing its monepantel anti-cancer tablets on dogs.

PharmAust (ASX:PAA) has had the green light to test its doggy cancer pill since April last year.

It certainly looks like it might work – recent studies showed that in both humans and dogs, the de-worming drug monepantel not only had a cytotoxic effect on cancer cells, it also metabolised to monepantel sulfone.

That metabolite, they found, remained in the body for some time, where it appeared to have the same effect on cancer cells. Just as importantly, it had the same non-toxic effect upon non-cancer cells as monepantel.

That led the team from Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute to say PharmAust’s pills were predicted to “provide an enduring and specific effect through a ‘double kick’ to cancer cells while minimally affecting normal cells in the body”.

All good so far.

The bad news since April has been that it appears dogs would rather die than eat it, because it tastes awful.

And once dogs eat something they don’t like – amazing as it is that such a thing exists – they rarely eat it again.

Some adjustments were made. At the end of 2018, a less vile tablet was formulated. And in January, a new “excipient formulation” resulted in the dogs having to eat less pills.

Excipients are agents included in tablets that help shape or dissolve the tablet but are not the active ingredient itself. Adjusting it meant PharmAust could get twice the amount of monepantel into a single pill.

Now it’s got that right, PharmAust has 2000 less-vile, more powerful pills ready for canine testing in a Phase I clinical trial starting February 19.

A US research team will look to:

  • determine whether monepantal works better on a full or empty stomach
  • confirm monepantel’s safety at single dose in a dose escalation study
  • determine how often a dosage is required to achieve blood levels that could be compatible with anticancer activity; and
  • establish a 28 day repeat dose drug level study in prepapration for Phase II studies on dogs with cancer.

Ultimately, PharmAust wants to establish whether monepantel is safe and effective for human use.

But there is certainly a big market for dogs. In the US alone, about 6 million poor doggos a year are diagnosed with cancer, and spending on their health is second only to spending on human health.

Shares in PharmAust rose 4.55% to $0.046 near the close.

PharmAust (ASX:PAA) shares in the past six months.