Cancer treatment is one of the most important areas of research in the medical world today. With research predominately conducted in large pharmaceutical research organisations, it is a positive sign when smaller players take up the challenge to develop their own innovative treatment for cancer.
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Under the ANGIOSTOP project, with EU-funding of nearly EUR 2 million, two small research-based pharmaceutical companies – Sweden’s BioInvent (the primary coordinator) and Thrombogenics in Belgium – have joined forces with three other partners to create a new synergy between academic groups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Their aim was to generate a more focused and streamlined strategy for cancer treatment development, avoiding the bureaucratic decision-making which sometimes handicaps large networks and pharmaceuticals.
The project looked at the novel anti-angiogenic treatment for cancer, arthritis and ocular neovascularisation based on the inhibition of placental growth factor (PlGF). The idea was to seek innovative forms of treatment that could stop the growth of cancerous tumours through the inhibition of angiogenesis – the process by which new blood vessels are formed in the body.
It was crucial to develop a safer and more effective anti-angiogenic medicine that reduces the pathological blood vessel formation associated with cancer and other diseases.
The ANGIOSTOP project succeeded in developing a potentially important new treatment, by studying an antibody that specifically targets PIGF. A detailed programme was drawn up outlining how the research team would develop this antibody for clinical use.
Now, following three years of research, the antibody treatment has been shown to have a significant effect on tumour models in mice. A subsequent toxicology study revealed the treatment to be safe for human use which means further clinical studies can now be undertaken.
The breakthrough findings have gained the attention of Roche, a global pharmaceutical maker, which has now injected EUR 50 million into the endeavour. ANGIOSTOP partners say this amount could be increased to EUR 450 million, if the project reaches certain development milestones.
Overall, the project has paved the way for clinical development with the lead candidate anti-PlGF antibody, as set out in the objectives. Coupled with better understanding of pathologic angiogenesis and new models and strategies, this could prove useful for developing new medicines aimed at increasing or reducing blood vessel formation, the researchers conclude.