The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recently awarded Houston-based biotechnology company RadioMedix, Inc. and Iowa City biopharmaceutical company Viewpoint Molecular Targeting LLC a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant, which includes $150,000 in funding. The NCI award is meant to support the phase I development of novel agents that could improve both targeted imaging and alpha-particle therapy for patients suffering from metastatic melanoma.
The research project, which is being conducted as a collaboration between the two companies, is an attempt to overcome the difficulty of treatment effectiveness of current therapies for metastatic melanoma, given the disease’s heterogeneity and drug resistance. Current systemic therapies are only able to induce tumor response in 5% to 20% of patients, but the companies believe that their research will be able to advance the effectiveness of cancer treatment with the help of the SBIR program grant.
“Our theranostic agents can differentiate cancer cells from normal cells based on differences in their metabolic pathways,” stated the principal investigator for the project and Chief Science Officer at RadioMedix, Izabela Tworowska. “This highly competitive NCI award will accelerate development of more effective methods of selective delivery of radiation to cancer cells, while reducing radiation exposure of normal tissues. This is a great step for our companies and we are pleased with the NCI decision.”
Tworowska will be working in collaboration with the CSO from Viewpoint, Michael K. Schultz, who is an associate professor of radiology and radiation oncology at the University of Iowa, and who also believes that “this grant represents an important milestone for our co-development work with Radiomedix. Our new technologies have great potential to improve therapy for metastatic melanoma patients.”
RadioMedix’s work has been focused on researching generator-produced radiopharmaceuticals based on Gallium-68 and Lead-212 chemistry, while Viewpoint Molecular Targeting, LLC develops medication for oncology diagnostic imaging and therapy, and has already focused its research efforts on metastatic melanoma. The collaboration between the two companies is expected to enhance the diagnostic and treatment options that were already being produced by Viewpoint, in order to offer more effective and personalized therapies.
“Although a significant research progress has been made in recent years, there are limited numbers of diagnostic and therapeutic agents available for patients with progressive metastatic melanoma. As a clinician, I understand the urgent need for access to more sensitive and specific methods of diagnosis and more effective personalized treatment,” said the CEO and Chairman of RadioMedix Inc., Ebrahim S. Delpassand, adding that the companies are expecting to begin the first-in-human trials of the agents by 2015.
In addition to the novel oncology agents, RadioMedix’s portfolio also includes therapy for the management of neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) called 68Ga-DOTATATE, or GalioMedix, which was granted Orphan Drug Designation status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at the end of last year. Along with Viewpoint, the company has also established academic and industrial partnerships with cGMP Manufacturing Suite for clinical probe development and with Molecular Imaging Facility for the evaluation of agents in animal models.