Starpharma technology delivers 40-fold more docetaxel to tumor

A targeting technology developed by Australian company Starpharma Holdings has delivered tumor levels of Sanofi Aventis' anticancer drug docetaxel (Taxotere) that are higher and longer-lasting than those seen with the current formulation. These are animal studies, but if the results carry through to humans, it could increase the efficacy of the drug as well as lowering its dose and cutting side effects.

In the mouse models of breast cancer, levels in the tumor were 40-fold higher than those delivered with the standard formulation, and there was a 60-fold increase in the plasma half-life (the time taken for the blood levels of the drug to halve), meaning that the drug stays active in the body for longer. The docetaxel formulation has potential in a variety of different cancer types, and is likely to hit the clinic next year.

Starpharma's docetaxel formulation is based on dendrimers, nanoparticles that can link to small molecule therapeutics and biologics. Starpharma is also combining its dendrimer technology with a number of other anticancer drugs, such as gemcitabine, platinum-based drugs, paclitaxel and doxorubicin. The technology also has potential with anticancer antibodies, which make treatments even more specific.

Dr. Jackie Fairley, CEO of Starpharma said: "This tumor targeting finding is relevant not only to Starpharma's docetaxel product, but also more broadly to the potential application of the delivery technology for anticancer agents in general."

In September, AstraZeneca ($AZN) signed a deal to test Starpharma drug-dendrimer conjugates as potential anti-cancer agents in combination with undisclosed drugs. This followed the expansion of a deal with Eli Lilly ($LLY) in December 2011.

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