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A made-in-B.C. prostate cancer drug entering clinical trials

December 2, 2015

Found in News

VANCOUVER, BC – A prostate cancer drug developed by researchers at the BC Cancer Agency and the University of British Columbia is entering human clinical trials. The drug is specifically designed to target and shut down metastatic castrate resistant prostate cancer (m-CRPC) when other treatments have failed.

"Today represents a significant milestone as we witness the fruits of our labour in the lab move to the clinic to potentially help men facing metastatic prostate cancer,” said Dr. Marianne Sadar, Distinguished Scientist at the BC Cancer Agency and Professor in the UBC Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. “We faced one in 1000 odds in developing a drug that would prove to be a candidate for patient trials.”

Over a decade in the making, the drug EPI-506 is the first to target the ‘back end’ of the androgen receptor protein, called the N-terminal domain. The androgen receptor drives most prostate cancer cells and makes them sensitive to androgen hormones, such as testosterone.

Current drug therapies for advanced prostate cancer aim at the opposite end of the androgen receptor, away from the N-terminal domain. While initially effective in slowing tumour growth, these therapies eventually fail. Sadar and Raymond Andersen, a Professor of Chemistry at UBC, specifically designed EPI-506 to shut down m-CRPC when these treatments have failed.

A Phase I multicentre clinical trial for EPI-506 opens today at the BC Cancer Agency and other sites in the USA.

“We are excited to initiate this clinical trial with EPI-506 in Canada,” said Bob Reider, CEO, ESSA Pharma Inc. “The potential to successfully treat prostate cancer in those patients whose cancer has failed to respond to current therapies hinges on the novel mechanism of action of EPI-506.”

Dr. Kim Chi, co-Principal Investigator for North America and Associate Professor in the UBC Division of Medical Oncology, will run the Canadian trial. He treats men with prostate cancer each day in his practice at the BC Cancer Agency. “Offering emerging treatment options discovered in the lab to clinical trials for men with m-CRPC is critical to finding new solutions for our patients,” said Dr. Chi.

BC Cancer Foundation donors have provided $2.6 million to advance Dr. Sadar’s eureka moment— identifying a completely new way to attack prostate cancer—through to the development of a drug candidate that proved successful in lab testing. Funding over the 17 years from concept to the start of clinical trials comes from grants awarded to Dr. Sadar from the USA National Cancer Institute, the USA Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Research Program and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Dr. Andersen received grants from the Canadian Cancer Society.

Quick facts:

  • Over 3,700 men in British Columbia will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year.
  • Metastatic castrate resistant prostate cancer (m-CRPC) is the lethal form of the disease and is resistant to most treatments.
  • EPI-506 is a drug discovered in collaboration between Dr. Marianne Sadar at the BC Cancer Agency and UBC, and Dr. Raymond Andersen at UBC’s Department of Chemistry.
  • The EPI-506 Phase I/II clinical trial is sponsored by ESSA Pharma Inc. and has both FDA and Health Canada approval for testing in humans as an investigational drug.
  • The EPI-506 Phase I/II clinical trial is designed for patients with metastatic prostate cancer and will explore safety, tolerability and anti-tumour activity.
  • BC Cancer Foundation donors have provided significant support of $2.6 million to advance Dr. Sadar’s research and development of a new treatment for prostate cancer.

The BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer, and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. For more information, visit www.bccancer.bc.ca

The BC Cancer Foundation is the bridge that connects philanthropic support and research breakthroughs in cancer knowledge.  As the fundraising partner of the BC Cancer Agency and the largest funder of cancer research in this province, we enable donors to make contributions to leading-edge research that has a direct impact on improvements to cancer care for patients in British Columbia. We fund with the goal of finding solutions. Visit www.bccancerfoundation.com to make a donation or to learn how you can make a difference in the lives of those affected by cancer.

ESSA Pharma Inc. ESSA Pharma is a development-stage pharmaceutical company focused on developing novel and proprietary therapies for the treatment of castration resistant prostate cancer (“CRPC”) in patients whose disease is progressing despite treatment with current therapies. ESSA believes that its product candidate, EPI-506, can significantly expand the interval of time in which patients suffering from CRPC can benefit from hormone-based therapies. EPI-506 acts by disrupting the androgen receptor (“AR”) signaling pathway, which is the primary pathway that drives prostate cancer growth. We have shown that EPI-002, the primary metabolite of EPI-506, prevents AR activation by binding selectively to the N-terminal domain (“NTD”) of the AR. A functional NTD is essential for activation of the AR. Blocking the NTD prevents activation of the AR by all of the three known mechanisms of activation. In pre-clinical studies, blocking the NTD has demonstrated the capability to overcome the known AR-dependent mechanisms of CRPC. ESSA was founded in 2009 and is located in Vancouver, British Columbia and Houston, Texas.


To arrange an interview, contact:
Kevin Sauve
Communications Officer, BC Cancer Agency
Cell: 604-842-1177
Email: kevin.sauve@bccancer.bc.ca

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