U.S.-based Threshold revives NZ cancer candidate for resistant lung cancer

New Zealand research on a promising cancer drug that was discarded by previous companies was revived by U.S.-based Threshold Pharmaceuticals ($THLD), which announced a promising showing in Phase I and II trials for treating a type of resistant lung cancer.

The TH-4000 drug had a troubled beginning. It was developed as PR610 at Auckland University, but could not get funding until a charity drive called "Daffodil Day" raised enough funds to attract two drugmaker sponsors, one in Japan, the other in the United States.

Auckland researcher Adam Patterson

Both companies dropped out last year when the first trial had to be halted because of "unacceptable toxicity" and results that suggested the maximum tolerable dose was not enough for the cancers they wanted to test it for in other trials, according to the New Zealand Herald. Adam Patterson and Jeff Smaili, the Auckland researchers, were left in limbo for a while.

Threshold, considered a leader in developing hypoxia drugs, which TH-4000 is, stepped in, conducted trials at even lower doses to avoid the toxicity problem and tested it on non-small cell lung cancer and for head and neck tumors that are not candidates for conventional treatment, both types of genetic mutations in cancer cells.

The two original Auckland scientists, still involved in the project, reported the results of the two trials at a cancer-research conference in the United States. Their report said the non-small cell lung drug was scheduled to begin Phase II trials. There was no word on the next trial for the tumor treatment.

- here's the Threshold release (PDF)
- read the story from the New Zealand Herald