Positive Trial Data with 100% Safe Delivery

Moleculin Announces Positive Trial Data with 100% Safe Delivery of p-STAT3 Inhibitor and Efficacy in Majority of Patients

Preliminary results from phase 1 clinical trial of WP1220 for treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (“CTCL”); supports phase 2 study.

“For years, p-STAT3 (the activated form of STAT3) has been considered an ‘undruggable’ target because of the difficulty of reaching and affecting this cell-signaling protein,” commented Walter Klemp, Moleculin’s Chairman and CEO. “Some consider it to be a master regulator of cancer-related gene transcription, so we believe the ability to show a therapeutic effect from a p-STAT3 inhibitor could be considered a significant breakthrough in cancer research.”

Results: There were 6 patients screened, and 5 patients enrolled between March and July 2019. Three are evaluable for both safety and efficacy after completing 3 months of treatment, with 2 ongoing and evaluable for safety. The only AE reported potentially related to study drug in one of the five patients was a mild contact dermatitis not requiring treatment. CAILS scores on index lesions were significantly decreased in the first 3 patients, who were stages IA, IB, and IIB, respectively, at entry. A composite score was obtained for all treated lesions for each patient, and percent changes were calculated from baseline to Day 84. There was a median reduction of 70.8% (range 62.1%-76.2%) for the 3 patients. Improvement was noted as early as 7 days after initiation of treatment, and maintenance of improvement was also shown at follow up (1 month after discontinuation, as per protocol). The fourth patient has also shown an initial reduction in the composite CAILS score after 56 days (26.7%), and is continuing on treatment. Evaluations of the biopsy samples for histopathology and status of p-STAT3 in treated lesions are in progress.

Conclusions: WP1220, an inhibitor of p-STAT3, has shown demonstrable safety and significant efficacy after at least 3 months of topical treatment in 3 patients with progressive MF, with a continuing trend towards improvement in additional patients currently in treatment. This is the first demonstration that inhibition of the STAT3 activation pathway with topical therapy has impacted the course of this disease. The trial is continuing, and updated and more comprehensive data from this study as well as assessment of STAT3 phosphorylation in treated lesions will be reported.

“This is the first topical delivery of a p-STAT3 inhibitor that we know of for CTCL, where there is a significant unmet need for improved treatment of the lesions associated with this potentially deadly skin cancer. But, we believe the significance of this data goes well beyond CTCL, as it speaks to the targeting of p-STAT3 as a general strategy. We are excited to share these preliminary results in association with ASH, especially because we believe showing activity here could have exciting implications for the future of STAT3 inhibitors in general. Although this is a relatively small pilot study, we believe the results justify an expansion to a larger patient population in a Phase 2 clinical trial,” added Dr. Sandra Silberman, CMO at Moleculin.

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New Public Health Crisis? Study Urged on Marijuana Smoking & Lung Cancer

As marijuana becomes mainstream and usage rates skyrocket, some of the nation’s top cancer doctors are urging the Surgeon General to investigate the link between smoking marijuana and lung cancer.

Among the renowned doctors calling for more study is Dr. Joseph Friedberg, head of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Publishing his concerns on SurvivorNet, the cancer site providing the latest information and treatment options from foremost cancer experts, Dr. Friedberg is calling for a federal study citing increased rates of lung cancer in their practices from patients whose only discernible risk factor is marijuana smoking. SurvivorNet released a documentary outlining the concerns surrounding the lack of research on the link between smoking marijuana and lung cancer in hopes of bringing widespread attention to the need for this study.

Dr. Friedberg states “Given the expanding legalization of marijuana, and the anticipated wave of increased use, there is clearly a need to study the cancer risks of marijuana with the same rigor that has been devoted to tobacco smoke. Both types of smoke contain some of the same carcinogens, so the widely held belief that tobacco smoke causes cancer and marijuana smoke does not is inherently flawed. “We have an opportunity to avoid a potential marijuana-related public health crisis similar to what we are still dealing with from cigarettes being introduced to the public without any health risk warnings.”

Previously, the only study on long term use of cannabis and lung cancer was a 2008 NIH study conducted in New Zealand which found that long term cannabis use increases the risk of lung cancer in young adults. The study cites other reputable scientific findings that state cannabis smoke is similar to tobacco smoke but with twice as many carcinogens and because people smoke joints without filters and hold the smoke in their lungs longer it can increase the risk of lung cancer. The major finding from this study was that for each joint-year of cannabis exposure, the risk of lung cancer increased by 8%, after adjustment for confounding variables including tobacco smoking.

A major differential risk between cannabis and cigarette smoking was observed, with 1 joint of cannabis similar to about 20 cigarettes for risk of lung cancer. This study was not extensive or long enough to be definitive but it raises concerns about the drug. This study would be the first of its kind to bring groundbreaking research and information to millions of Americans who smoke marijuana without understanding the potentially lethal side effects. Much like tobacco’s earliest days, if something is not done about this now, we risk another major health emergency.

SurvivorNet was founded to fill an urgent need for better information about cancer prevention and treatment. “By bringing attention to crucial findings from some of the country’s leading cancer doctors, we are hoping to save lives. We know marijuana is alleviating suffering for a great many cancer patients. We also think people who smoke and vape marijuana recreationally should have accurate information about whether there is an increased risk for cancer and then make their own choices. It’s clear a major national study is needed so we can really understand this issue.”

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Dr. John S. Macdonald Honored at 2018 Luminary Awards

John S. Macdonald, MD, is the Senior Medical Advisor for AGICC (Academic GI Cancer Consortium) and the consolidated Oncology Consortia of Criterium groups, including: AMyC (Academic Myeloma Consortium), ATOMIC (Academic Thoracic Oncology Medical Investigators Consortium) and ABRCC (Academic Breast Cancer Consortium). He is a leading supporter and advocate of the Translational Research methodology.

Dr. Macdonald was one of a few select honorees at The Ruesch Center for the Cure of Gastrointestinal Cancers Annual Luminary Awards on November 30th, 2018.

Dr. Macdonald successfully developed and led the Comprehensive Cancer Center at St. Vincent’s in New York City between 1997 and 2007. He is widely recognized as an industry and academic expert in gastrointestinal oncology and has written and lectured on the advantages of translational research. In addition to his responsibilities at Saint Vincent’s, Dr. Macdonald served as Chief of Medical Oncology there, and as the Lynn Wood Neag Endowed Professor of Medicine at the New York Medical College. He is acknowledged as a leading educator in Medical Oncology. 

Macdonald pioneered the use of chemoradiation after surgical resection of gastric cancers. This treatment regimen, aptly named the “Macdonald Regimen,” has helped turn the idea of a cure into a reality for thousands of patients with gastric cancers. This has also paved the way for the development of new treatment options for gastric cancers.  “[Macdonald] is a groundbreaking researcher, dedicated educator, and outstanding clinician,” said Sunnie Kim, MD, of the Ruesch Center for the Cure of Gastrointestinal Cancers, prior to presenting Macdonald with his award. “He has changed the lives of countless patients with some of the deadliest cancers.”

Dr. Macdonald has authored over 400 articles, abstracts and book chapters and has been both published in, and editor of, many prestigious medical journals. Macdonald has received numerous awards and distinctions, including being named among Good Housekeeping’s Best 300 Doctors in America and, over a seven-year period, New York magazine’s Best Doctors in New York.

Visit the website to see Dr. Macdonald’s profile and all the Consortia groups.

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The Emerging Breast Imaging Standard

Many breast imaging centers have launched high risk screening clinics to augment their existing services. This has already become the new standard, as organizations look for justification to expand patient services, recommend breast MRI screening exams, and provide referrals for genetic counseling.  Offering a service dedicated to screening patients for high risk, without the proper tools, can put more stress on the breast imaging workflow.

The problem is that many systems are not set up to function on this plane. Subsequently, some sites resort to manual data entry on risk model websites to calculate each score individually. Calculated risk models, such as Tyrer-Cuzick and the Gail Model, are simply not built into the RIS mammography tracking module, mammography information system, or EMR module.

Some programs offer standalone, web-based risk platforms only, although this method adds to system fragmentation, redundancy, and increased room for error. This is especially true when the reader wants to add the risk score to their finding report, or if the site wants to include risk-related information in the patient notification letter.

Tyrer-Cuzick version 8 has 25 elements and family history factors alone, so the time required to enter this for every patient, every study, and every day adds up fast. In most cases, the facility is already required to enter this information into their existing mammography tracking solution and, in order to generate the risk score, that same information has to be re-entered into an online calculator.

MagView, however, has considered this workflow and incorporated several breast cancer risk models into their base program. They offer automated calculations for all available risk models, such as Tyrer-Cuzick, Gail, BRCAPro, and Claus. In their program, patients can enter breast cancer risk factors in advance of the appointment using a patient history portal, saving the facility staff countless hours a day. The patients can also use the patient history tablet module for electronic submission to the breast center and MagView system.

These factors are saved from year to year, so the patient only needs to modify any changes in the previous history on subsequent visits. The calculators are built into the program, so no external websites or third-party programs are needed. The data is then used in the automatic risk calculation, and the radiologists can see the score in real-time, affecting their decision on follow-up recommendation. Scores can automatically be included in the finding reports, saving the readers additional time, and patients can be notified with automated text inserted into the letter based on their score.

Evidence has shown that including risk information in both the finding reports and patient letters has increased awareness along all fronts, especially when qualifying patients for additional imaging, like breast MRIs. One site reported a 100% increase in breast MRI referrals from their previous workflow using their RIS mammography tracking module as a reporting tool.

The bottom line is, increased high risk screening has improved the detection of cancers by ensuring patients who are at a high risk receive the care and additional imaging they need. In a recent study of BRCA mutation carriers and women of 20% or higher lifetime risk for breast cancer, sensitivity for breast cancer detection was 90.0% using MRI versus 37.5% for mammography and 37.5% for ultrasound (Source: Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2015;33(10):1128-35).

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September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month

September was designated as National Blood Cancer Awareness Month in 2010 by the United States Congress. Approximately every 3 minutes one person in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer. That means that during September, Blood Cancer Awareness Month, more than 14,000 people will be informed that they have one of these terrible diseases.

Blood cancers are a group of diseases that affect the production and function of blood cells. The three main types are leukemia (found in blood and bone marrow), lymphoma (affects the body’s lymphatic system) and myeloma (impacts plasma cells). Nearly 172,000 people in the U.S. are living with a blood cancer, according to Kevin Radelet, executive director, Leukemia Research Foundation.

In recognition of Blood Cancer Awareness Month, the Leukemia Research Foundation is conducting a social media initiative called The Heroes Among Us to increase awareness about ALL blood cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and myelodysplastic syndromes.

The LRF Facebook?and Instagram pages will highlight Heroes through uplifting stories. You will have the opportunity to share, mention and comment on posts on Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn too.

Several buildings in downtown Chicago — LRF is located in Northfield, IL — will “light up orange” in recognition of Blood Cancer Awareness Month. Click here for details.

Here’s how you can participate:
? Share on social media channels online using hashtags: #LRFHeroes?and/or #HeroesWearOrange
? Share the link to the heroes stories with friends, family members and colleagues
? Buy a bag of orange ribbons and share them!?Send an email?to request ribbons
? Please donate today?to help LRF continue to raise awareness and funding for research and patient programs.
? For other ways to get involved, sign up for events, or volunteer, please click here.

Headquartered in Northfield, IL., the Leukemia Research Foundation is dedicated to conquering all blood cancers by funding research into their causes and cures and enriching the quality of life of those touched by these diseases. For more information, visit www.allbloodcancers.org or call 847-424-0600.

Copy reprinted by permission of LRF.org; excerpt by permission of PRnewswire

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Finding New Treatments for Breast Cancer with Brain Metastases

As if Breast Cancer or Brain Cancer alone were not enough to combat — patients with both now?have new hope in light of fledgling research that is showing progress.

Once breast cancer metastasizes into other areas of the body, particularly the brain, it becomes much more dangerous. And while the National Cancer Institute spends more than $500 million dollars per year on breast cancer research, only two to five percent of this funding goes to study how the disease spreads.

A clinical trial is open nationwide through the Academic Breast Cancer Consortium (ABRCC), giving access to an exciting novel drug therapy combination. The tucatinib, palbocilib and letrozole trial is coordinated by ABRCC and currently open for enrollment at the University of Colorado Cancer Center; University of Texas Health and Science Center in San Antonio, TX; Stony Brook University, NY; University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ; and University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM and will also be accruing patients at Northwestern University, Chicago, IL.

There are three well-established predictive markers of breast cancer. They are estrogen receptors (ER), progesterone receptors (PR), and the growth factor receptor HER2, these receptors may be blocked with targeted drugs to stop cancer growth. Breast cancers lacking these three markers are referred to as ?triple-negative? but clinicians and scientists are quickly learning more about cancers that have all three receptors, which are often called ?triple-positive.? There are treatments against each target individually, but when multiple drivers are present, as in ?triple-positive? breast cancer, blocking one often results in cancer nimbly switching to driving its growth with the other two.

The study combines tucatinib, which inhibits HER2, with letrozole targeting ER and PR hormone receptors, and the drug palbociclib, which targets CDK proteins that help cancer cells rush through the process of replication. The three had not been tried together until Elena Shagisultanova, MD, PhD, a breast cancer specialist at UCH, hypothesized there could be a way to target all three drivers at the same time with better results than targeting combinations of any two.

?When metastatic cancer spreads to the brain, it can be especially challenging,? says Dr Peter Kabos, the National Medical Director of the Academic Breast Cancer Consortium (ABRCC) and the Kabos Research Lab for Breast Cancer at UC Denver. ?Many medications aren?t effective in the brain, but exciting early clinical trial data for tucatinib shows that it may be one of the drugs that can penetrate the blood-brain barrier to combat brain metastases.

The trial is funded by the Pfizer ASPIRE Award in Breast Cancer Research. Cascadian Therapeutics and Pfizer are providing the study drugs tucatinib and palbociclib. For more information about trial eligibility and participation, contact brad.mackay@ucdenver.edu or emily.berens@ucdenver.edu

Article excerpted with permission from the University of Colorado Cancer Center blog — for the complete story, click here.

Beneficial Skin Bacteria Protect Against Skin Cancer

Science continues to peel away layers of the skin microbiome to reveal its protective properties.? Researchers now report on a potential new role for some bacteria on the skin: protecting against cancer.

“We have identified a strain of Staphylococcus epidermidis, common on healthy human skin, that exerts a selective ability to inhibit the growth of some cancers,” said Richard Gallo, MD, PhD, Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Dermatology at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “This unique strain of skin bacteria produces a chemical that kills several types of cancer cells but does not appear to be toxic to normal cells.”

The team discovered the S. epidermidis strain produces the chemical compound 6-N-hydroxyaminopurine (6-HAP). Mice with S. epidermidis on their skin that did not make 6-HAP had many skin tumors after being exposed to cancer-causing ultraviolet rays (UV), but mice with the S. epidermidis strain producing 6-HAP did not.? 6-HAP is a molecule that impairs the creation of DNA, known as DNA synthesis, and prevents the spread of transformed tumor cells as well as the potential to suppress development of UV-induced skin tumors.

Mice that received intravenous injections of 6-HAP every 48 hours over a two-week period experienced no apparent toxic effects, but when transplanted with melanoma cells, their tumor size was suppressed by more than 50 percent compared to controls.

“There is increasing evidence that the skin microbiome is an important element of human health. In fact, we previously reported that some bacteria on our skin produce antimicrobial peptides that defend against pathogenic bacteria such as, Staph aureus,” said Gallo.

In the case of S. epidermidis, it appears to also be adding a layer of protection against some forms of cancer, said Gallo. Further studies are needed to understand how 6-HAP is produced, if it can be used for prevention of cancer or if loss of 6-HAP increases cancer risk, said Gallo.

More than 1 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. More than 95 percent of these are non-melanoma skin cancer, which is typically caused by overexposure to the sun’s UV rays. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer that starts in the pigment-producing skin cells, called melanocytes.

Displayed with permission from FARS News Agency via RePubHub

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Huntington’s Disease Molecule Can Kill Cancer Cells

Scientists have destroyed numerous types of human cancer cells with a toxic molecule characteristic of fatal genetic illness Huntington?s disease.

The researchers hailed the molecule?which has killed both human and mouse ovarian, breast, prostate, liver, brain, lung, skin and colon cancer cell lines in mice?as a ?super assassin.? Their results were published in the journal EMBO Reports.

Huntington?s disease is a progressive illness caused by an excess of a specific repeating RNA sequence in the Huntington gene, which is present in every cell. The defect causes the death of brain cells, and gradually worsens a person?s physical and mental abilities. The disease has no cure.

Researchers believe that the defect may be even more powerful against cancer cells than nerve cells in the brain, and the team hopes it can be harnessed to kill cancer cells without causing Huntington?s symptoms.? ?This molecule is a super assassin against all tumor cells,? said senior author Marcus Peter, a professor of cancer metabolism at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, in a press statement. ?We?ve never seen anything this powerful.?

Peter collaborated with Feinberg colleague Shad Thaxton, associate professor of urology, to deliver the molecule in the form of nanoparticles to mice with human ovarian cancer. The targeted molecule decreased tumor growth with no toxicity to the mice.

First author Andrea Murmann, a research assistant professor who discovered the cancer-killing mechanism, used the molecule to kill numerous other human and mouse cancer cell lines. Building on previous research into a cancer ?kill switch?, Murmann looked to diseases associated with low rates of cancer and a suspected RNA link.? ?I thought maybe there is a situation where this kill switch is overactive in certain people, and where it could cause loss of tissues,? Murmann said in the statement. ?These patients would not only have a disease with an RNA component, but they also had to have less cancer.?

There is up to 80 percent less cancer in people with Huntington?s disease than the general population.? Murmann recognised similarities between the kill switch and the toxic Huntington?s disease RNA sequences.? Based on their results, the team believe the ?super assassin? molecule could be used to fight cancer in humans. ?We believe a short-term treatment cancer therapy for a few weeks might be possible, where we could treat a patient to kill the cancer cells without causing the neurological issues that Huntington?s patients suffer from,? Peter said.? The scientists next aim to refine the molecule?s delivery method to improve tumor targeting, and to stabilize the nanoparticles for storage.

By Katherine Hignett – Displayed with permission from Newsweek via RePubHub License; Cancer Cells courtesy of PixaBay FREE LIC CC0?

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ABRCC Consortia MD Elena Shagisultanova Targets Treatment-Resistant Breast Cancer

Metastatic triple-positive breast cancer frequently resists treatments. Scientists at the University of Colorado Cancer Center are testing a unique combination of medications to change that.

Growth of breast cancer cells is often propelled by one of three receptors ? estrogen receptors (ER), progesterone receptors (PR) or the growth factor receptor called HER2. Treatments exist targeting each of these receptors individually. However, when all three receptors are present ? this ?triple-positive? breast cancer ? blocking any single receptor is not enough. ?Treatments that block hormonal (estrogen and progesterone) receptors may be not very effective because tumor cells may use HER2 receptor to grow. The drugs that block HER2 receptors may not work as well because the cells will use hormonal receptors to survive. Chemotherapy works against triple-positive breast cancers, however, it has multiple side effects. Previous clinical trials have been largely unsuccessful in defining a well-tolerated targeted drug combination that blocks all avenues for growth of triple-positive breast tumors.

?Under the current guidelines, patients with triple-positive metastatic breast cancer have two options as a first line of treatment and neither is a great option,? says Elena Shagisultanova, MD, PhD, investigator at the CU Cancer Center and assistant professor in the University of Colorado School of Medicine?s Division of Medical Oncology. ?One approach is to start an anti-hormonal pill, which is generally non-toxic. However, the response usually lasts only three to four months. The other choice is to start chemotherapy combined with HER-2 targeted agents. This option is effective, but it has multiple side effects.?

Shagisultanova is the principal investigator on the multi-institutional trial.? It is also?an investigator-initiated trial which allows physician/scientists to test treatments that their hands-on experience in the lab and clinic indicate may offer meaningful results. Shagisultanova believes she and CU Cancer Center colleagues may have another option: a regimen using three pills, each targeting a different pathway of the disease. The?trial combines tucatinib, which inhibits HER2, with letrozole targeting hormone receptors, and the CDK4/6 inhibitor palbociclib.

?We think hormone receptor and HER-2 signals are coming together to help cancer cells resist treatment,? says Shagisultanova. ?The CDK4/6 inhibitor palbociclib can block these converging signals in the nucleus. We believe that if we can inhibit the signaling deeper in the tumor cell using this triple blockade, patients will have longer lives and better quality of life.? ?Tucatinib, palbociclib and letrozole tend to have different side-effects, leading Shagisultanova to believe the triple combination of targeted agents will be well- tolerated.

Early clinical trials often exclude patients whose cancer has already metastasized to the brain, in large part due to the inability of anti-cancer drugs to penetrate the blood-brain barrier to reach the disease in the central nervous system. However, because tucatinib has proven effective in shrinking HER2-positive breast tumors that have spread to the brain, patients with brain metastases are, in fact, included in the current trial.

?Metastatic disease in the brain is one of the most dangerous complications of triple-positive breast cancer. If we can prevent development of brain metastases, or effectively treat metastatic disease in the brain, it will improve the lives of many patients,? Shagisultanova says.? ?There are many challenges in designing and delivering clinical trials,? says Christopher Lieu, MD, CU Cancer Center?s deputy associate director for clinical research. Lieu also leads CU Cancer Center?s efforts in further developing an Investigator-Initiated Trials Committee.

?We are fortunate at CU Cancer Center to have innovative clinicians who are analyzing data to find novel and innovative strategies to target malignancies that are in serious need of better therapies,? Lieu adds.? ?Trials like this one are critical in moving cancer science forward and finding effective, non-toxic therapies.?

This trial is currently open for enrollment at the ABRCC Consortia Academic sites of: University of Colorado Cancer Center, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL; University of Texas Health and Science Center in San Antonio, TX; Stony Brook University, NY; University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, and University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM.

The trial is funded by the Pfizer ASPIRE Award in Breast Cancer Research. Cascadian Therapeutics and Pfizer are providing the study drugs tucatinib and palbociclib.

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