Melbourne: Scientists have discovered a marker on leukemic stem cells and an antibody drug that binds to this marker is undergoing clinical trials in Australia and the US.
Since the marker is specific for the cancer cells the treatment does not impact healthy cells - meaning that side effects may be limited, researchers said.
The tumour marker is EphA3, and KB004, the antibody drug that binds to the marker, is undergoing clinical trials at several hospitals in Australia and in the US.
One of the diseases being treated is AML (acute myeloid leukemia), one of the deadliest and hardest to treat of the leukaemias.
To date, the outcome of the Phase I trial has been encouraging: as the drug has been well tolerated, even at high doses and has shown encouraging clinical activity. Phase 2 trials are set to begin by the end of this year.
Associate Professor Martin Lackmann from Monash University's School of Biomedical Sciences has led the team researching the cancer target.
Lackmann and his team have found EphA3 is present on a wide range of leukemia and lymphoma cells as well as on solid tumours such as brain, lung, colon and prostate cancers.
Importantly the marker is almost non-existent on non-tumour cells making it an ideal target for cancer therapy.
Dr Andrew Wei led a clinical team at the Alfred Hospital in Australia that has treated some of the 30 patients receiving the anti-cancer agent, which is now called KB004.
"We are very excited to see progression of KB004 into the clinic, and in particular to be part of the multi-centre trial that allows us to treat leukaemia patients at the Alfred Hospital with the new investigational therapy," Lackmann said when the trial opened in Melbourne earlier this month.
"We believe this antibody could provide significant benefit to patients with a broad range of cancer types, given its potential to affect tumour growth through several distinct mechanisms," Lackmann said.