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Home > Press > Orphan in need of adoption

Nano therapy for ovarian cancer will enable superior tumor accumulation and retention of radioactivity, resulting in better therapuetic efficacy than existing standards of care.

Orphan in need of adoption

Philadelphia, PA | Posted on December 8th, 2006

Twenty thousand new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. More than 75% of these patients are women with late stage ovarian cancer. The prognosis for this group is very poor: only 30% will survive five years or longer.

Even treatment for ovarian cancer can be devastating to a patient's quality of life. Treatment commonly involves invasive surgery followed by extensive chemotherapy, both of which can be physically and emotionally traumatic.

Under funding received from The Nanotechnology Institute and the National Cancer Institute, University of Pennsylvania Scientists have created a nanotechnology-based radiopharmaceutical that could potentially improve the treatment of ovarian cancer.

The proprietary platform technology specifically targets cancer cells via the folate receptor pathway, minimizing damage to surrounding non-cancerous cells. In principle, the drug will enable a higher tumor radiation dose than is possible with other radiotherapeutics, which do not deliver enough radiation to be useful for treatment.

Unfortunately, despite tremendous laboratory progress, this technology may never reach the patients who need it most. The reason is that the market opportunity for ovarian cancer is small (~$75M/year) - too small to justify development by a large multinational corporation.

"This is a platform technology with enormous potential, but its early stage means there is also enormous clinical risk," says Dr. Brian Smith, a co-inventor of the technology. "Our work with Greg Adams at the Fox Chase Cancer Center is promising, but it suggests the need for additional experiments."

Usually at this stage of development, a sponsoring company would invest and work with the scientist to further the research. However, the small market size is a significant barrier to attracting would-be investors. Dr. Smith also hopes to keep the drug affordable, launching at a price of around $5,000 instead of the $50,000 that could be charged for this type of therapy.

"What we need is an angel with personal interest," says Hugo Fitzgerald, Manager of Nanotechnology and Licensing at the University of Pennsylvania. "We have an adequate IP portfolio to justify the creation of a small start up, what we lack is the outside management to champion it and push it out of the laboratory and into the FDA approval process."

The therapeutic would likely qualify for tax credits and marketing exclusivity under the Orphan Drug Act, priority FDA review, and accelerated FDA approval. Follow on applications could include treatments for various other cancers as well as a related radiopharmaceutical for diagnostic imaging.

If interested in working with or supporting the research, please contact:

Hugo FitzGerald
Manager Nanotechnology and Licensing
Center for Technology Transfer
University of Pennsylvania


For more information, please click here

Contact: Hugo FitzGerald
Phone: 215 573 4307

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