Specialty pharmaceutical company Race Oncology (ASX: RAC) has found its lead candidate Zantrene (bisantrene dihydrochloride) is able to protect heart muscles from cell death caused by chemotherapy drug carfilzomib.
Results from a preclinical heart safety research program, led by cardiotoxicity researchers at the University of Newcastle, showed that Zantrene protects heart muscle cells from a new class of anti-cancer drug (carfilzomib) induced cell death, while improving the killing of cancer cells.
Carfilzomib is a highly-effective anthracycline (anti-cancer drug) used in the treatment of multiple myeloma (blood cancer) but is known to cause serious and permanent damage to the heart in many patients.
The risk of cardiac damage is so great that the use of carfilzomib in older patients with pre-existing heart disease is often contraindicated.
Improved heart safety
Zantrene’s improved heart safety compared to standard anthracyclines has been demonstrated in more than 50 human clinical trials and shown in preclinical studies to protect heart muscle cells from anthracycline-induced death.
University of Newcastle associate professor Doan Ngo said the research showed Zantrene could salvage over 30% of carfilzomib-induced human heart cell death.
“Our laboratory has tested numerous drug candidates over the years and we have observed that Zantrene has potent and synergistic anti-cancer effects and cardio-protective effects against carfilzomib and doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity,” she said.
“Zantrene was shown to be able to significantly protect the heart muscles and these results are genuinely remarkable, as we have observed a much lower protection rate with other clinically used cardioprotective drugs.”
She said the discovery opens new clinical development pathways and partnering opportunities for Zantrene beyond those already identified by Race.
“These results give hope to millions of patients living with cancer that once they survive the disease, they may not have to live with heart disease,” she added.
Race chief executive officer Phillip Lynch said the company would be allocating additional resources to ensure the cardio-protective role of Zantrene could be comprehensively addressed.
Mr Lynch said there may be a possibility that Zantrene could prevent cardiac damage caused by other classes of heart-damaging cancer drugs however this had not yet been addressed.