10 May 2016

Weizmann born prostate cancer therapy in advanced trials

A new prostate cancer drug called Tookad®, which is currently approved in Mexico for early–stage treatment, is now undergoing advanced trials in Israel and Europe, with European approval hoped for soon.

The novel therapy is delivered by injection and activated using laser light, with the idea of applying light in cancer therapy born in Weizmann Institute of Science laboratories by Professors Yoram Saloman and Avigdor Sherz.

The drug is based on the action of bacteriochlorophyll a compound used by types of aquatic bacteria to make energy from the sun via photosynthesis.  In this case, the synthetic compound that comprises Tookad® is injected into the patient and quickly followed by near-infrared laser illumination delivered via thin optic fibres, inserted into the cancerous region.

Once in the body the light activates the drug which releases short-lived oxygen and nitric oxide radicals designed to restrict and destroy a tumour’s blood supply.  This is done in such a way that healthy tissue is not affected. After 90 minutes the drug is clear of the body and within a few days the patient is fully recovered.

CEO of Weizmann’s technology transfer arm – Yeda Research and Development Company – Mr Amir Naiberg, said the minimally invasive treatment was a positive alternative for patients with early diagnosed prostate cancer.

“The number of these patients has dramatically increased in the last two decades due to widespread screening relying on levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA). This population faces the dilemma of undergoing the radical treatment of prostate removal with the risk of high morbidity, or remaining under active surveillance with increased risk of further cancer progression,” he said.

Yeda worked with Steba Biotech to develop the drug and activation system which was ultimately licensed to Sreba by Yeda once the process was finalised.

Mexico was swift to approve the drug following a successful first Phase III clinical trial of 80 patients in Mexico and a second in Europe, both confirming a high rate of localised cures and minimal side-effects reported in previous phase II trials.  This was evidenced with negative biopsies plus patients’ quality of life, potency and continence.

An application for market approval in Europe using Tookad™® to treat localised prostate cancer is currently underway.

Its use in more advanced prostate cancer and other cancers – esophageal cancer, urothelial carcinoma, renal carcinoma and triple-negative breast cancer – is also taking place in four clinical studies at Oxford University, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and Assuta Hospital, Tel Aviv.

Tookad® is not yet approved in Australia and the Therapeutic Goods Association cannot confirm or deny if an application has been made. We will keep you informed of progress.

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