Editorial Coverage: Advances in biotechnology look to deliver
promising new treatment options against breast cancer.
Independent researchers have found that Genprex Inc.’s
(NASDAQ: GNPX) (GNPX
Profile) TUSC2 prevented tumor growth against
triple-negative breast cancer. Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE:
LLY) is focusing on those patients with the greatest need
and, in the process, has developed a new breast-cancer treatment
option. Roche Holding (OTCQX: RHHBY) is expanding
the use of its biotech to both identify and treat patients with
challenging breast cancers. AbbVie Inc. (NYSE:
ABBV) has been rapidly increasing its research, targeting
more than 15 different types of cancer. AstraZeneca (NYSE:
AZN) has seen hopeful results against metastatic breast
cancer as it works in collaboration with a Japanese firm.
- Breast cancer is a major killer, responsible for 25% of cancers
in women and half a million deaths each year.
- Gene therapies offer a way to treat previously difficult or
- The attention of major pharmaceutical companies is pushing
research forward fast.
To view an infographic of this editorial, click here.
Battling Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is one of the most widely prevalent cancers in the
world. Accounting for a quarter of all cancers in women worldwide,
as well as a number of cases in men, it kills over half a million
people every year.
Treatment for breast cancer varies, based on both the patient’s
circumstances and type of cancer. The development of treatments to
suppress or even eliminate cancer has led to a high survival rate
in wealthy countries, with around 85% of patients in the United
States and United Kingdom surviving for at least five years from
diagnosis. But even in these countries, survival depends upon the
exact form of the cancer, how far it has progressed and whether a
treatment has been developed for that particular form. Cancer is a
difficult disease to defeat, and survival can depend upon the
ability of scientists to counter a specific genetic defect in a
specific set of cells.
Good News for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
Because cancers are so varied and challenging to tackle, every
individual win is worth celebrating. That’s why recent news relating to triple-negative breast cancer
(TNBC) has brought excitement both for independent researchers and
for Genprex Inc. (NASDAQ: GNPX), a clinical-stage,
gene-therapy company whose tumor suppressor candidate 2 (TUSC2) was
found to prevent tumor growth in TNBC.
TNBC covers a variety of cancers that do not express three
specific types of receptor proteins. Most hormone therapies for
breast cancer target one of these receptors, so tackling a cancer
that doesn’t feature any of those receptors is more difficult. TNBC
is an extremely aggressive subtype of breast cancer associated with
poor prognosis and high mortality rates. The lack of targeted
treatment for triple-negative breast cancer makes it a particularly
feared diagnosis. Because up to 20% of breast-cancer patients are
fighting TNBC, finding therapies that effectively fight these forms
of cancer is essential.
Recently TNBC patients have heard good news, thanks to research published in Nature. This research
shows that TUSC2 prevented the growth of tumors in TNBC. And with
Genprex already working on cancer treatments using TUSC2, including
its lead drug candidate, Oncoprex(TM) immunogene therapy, the new
research appears to validate the company’s focus and direction.
Currently Genprex is conducting clinical and preclinical
research to evaluate the effectiveness of TUSC2 when combined with
targeted therapies and immunotherapies for non-small cell lung
cancer. Existing preclinical data also suggest that TUSC2 may be
effective against glioblastoma, head and neck cancer, kidney cancer
and soft-tissue sarcomas. This new independent study raises the
possibility that TUSC2 expression may also be used to treat this
most aggressive subset of breast cancer.
“The results of the study evaluating TUSC2 for the treatment of
triple-negative breast cancer are encouraging,” said Genprex
chairman and CEO Rodney Varner. “We believe that the data reported
in this Nature article by independent researchers supports
our belief that TUSC2 may be effective to treat a variety of
cancers, including some of the most-deadly types of cancer.”
This new report is a particularly encouraging moment for
Genprex, as the study doesn’t come from the company’s own research
work but instead verifies its value through an independent source.
With multiple teams and researchers in multiple locations all
evaluating and studying TUSC2 as a potential source for cancer
treatment, the evidence is mounting that this approach may provide
something new and valuable for doctors and patients.
Gene Therapy to Tackle Breast Cancer
Like many of the most promising cancer treatments, Genprex’s
TUSC2 treatment is a form of gene therapy.
A technology less than 50 years old, gene therapy remains on the
cutting edge of modern medicine. The approach involves delivering
new genetic material into the patient’s body, where it is absorbed
by cells. This rewrites the code of those cells, changing how they
grow, reproduce, spread and die.
The growth and death of cells is fundamental to the challenge of
cancer. Damaged genetic material leads cancer cells to develop in
harmful ways and spread through the body, sometimes at a rapid
rate. Treatments such as Genprex’s Oncoprex can be used to write
over the harmful DNA code and introduce a new gene. The result is
that cancer itself is rewritten to reduce its harm.
Genetic treatments vary in the way they affect the body’s cells.
Some directly destroy cancerous cells. Others slow their
reproduction, thereby reducing the spread of unhealthy tissue
throughout the body. Other treatments make cells more susceptible
to forms of treatment that might otherwise be ineffective.
TUSC2 treatment falls into both categories, helping cancer dells
to die and preventing the growth of cancerous tumors. If
successfully used, this approach could halt the growth of existing
cancers and their spread through the body. TUSC2 is a vital element
of treatment if cancer is to be prevented from running rampant
Genprex’s Oncoprex therapy delivers cancer-fighting genes by
encapsulating them into nanoscale hollow spheres called
nanovesicles. The nanovesicles are then administered intravenously.
They flow through the bloodstream until they locate and are
absorbed by the cancer cells. The TUSC2 gene then expresses
proteins that are missing or in short supply, bringing the damaged
cells closer to normal behavior. By rewriting the very fundamentals
of the body, such treatments may save lives.
Disruptive Technology for the Medical
“Disruptive” isn’t a term that’s often applied to medicine,
where the aim is to avoid disrupting the health of the human body.
But technology such Genprex’s Oncoprex immunogene therapy is
disruptive precisely because it could improve doctors’ ability to
preserve health. It may also change the course of cancer, as new
technology often opens up new possibilities.
Since its first successful use in the 1980s, gene therapy has
rightly been presented as a disruptive technology. It deals with
health on a basic level, altering the building blocks of life. This
is why Genprex was among the companies presenting at the 4th Annual Disruptive Growth Conference in New
York this September. Oncoprex’s multimodal mechanism allows it
to tackle cancer in a number of different ways, reducing the
cancer’s spread, encouraging the death of cancer cells and
modulating the response of the immune system to fight cancer. It
can block mechanisms that cause resistance to other anti-cancer
drugs and so increase the effectiveness of a broader course of
As both treatments and the business models of companies behind
them develop, the battle against cancer is being transformed.
Founded more than 140 years ago, Eli Lilly and Company
(NYSE: LLY) is one of the oldest players in the field of
cancer treatment, a company that has spent more than a century
making medicines to help people around the world. Lilly uses
predictive and prognostic biomarkers to work out how a tumor is
likely to behave and how it will respond to potential therapies.
This approach allows more targeted treatment designed to tackle the
patient’s specific cancer, thereby increasing the likelihood of
success in any given case. LLY’s Verzenio treatment has been
shown to be effective in cancer treatment,
encouraging cell death and reducing the spread of tumors. The
company’s strategy is a targeted one, concentrating on those cancer
patients with the greatest need, and so providing the greatest
possible impact from its medicines.
Another long-established company, Roche Holding (OTCQX:
RHHBY) was one of the first to provide targeted treatments
such as those offered by gene therapy. The world’s largest biotech
company, Roche has poured a huge amount of resources into
biopharmaceuticals and is a global leader in cancer treatments. The
company recently announced the expanded use of its technology to identify TNBC patients and so to provide
them with the targeted treatment they need to fight their cancer.
The company’s support for cancer patients extends beyond better
medicine for those in wealthy countries. Roche is a supporter of a
health-care approach in South Africa that takes treatment to the
rails, providing mobile health-care facilities and services that
include breast cancer screening for people who might otherwise lack
A research-driven biopharmaceutical company, AbbVie Inc.
(NYSE: ABBV) is working on new
treatments for more than 15 different cancers, including forms
of breast cancer. The company’s wide-ranging work means that
insights from one area can affect work in another, allowing greater
progress in the overall understanding of cancer and the development
of specific, targeted treatments. AbbVie’s oncology research has
increased dramatically over the past six years, often through
partnerships with other companies, allowing a rich
cross-fertilization of ideas.
Based in the United Kingdom, AstraZeneca (NYSE:
AZN) benefits from its proximity to some of the finest
minds in the world and an elite recruitment pool. Like AbbVie,
AstraZeneca has been making breakthroughs in a wide range of cancer
types. Research in
collaboration with a Japanese company has recently led to
promising results for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, as
the company works to improve survival rates and quality of life for
breast cancer patients.
With the attention of so many big players in the
biopharmaceutical industry, promising treatments for cancer are
For more information on Genprex, visit Genprex Inc.
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