Cancer therapies often fail because they do not eliminate cancer stem cells. Current standard of care cancer therapies and drugs focus on reducing tumor size. However, despite advances in molecular medicine and technology, the majority of cancer patients with late-stage disease do not survive five years after diagnosis. A growing body of scientific and clinical research has demonstrated that a subset of stem cells within the tumor, called cancer stem cells, play a critical role in both tumor initiation and tumor relapse that eventually leads to cancer death. Although the origin and underling nature of cancer stem cells is still an area of ongoing research, rare populations of malignant cells have been shown to have the capacity for endless self-renewal found in many types of cancer including colorectal tumors. Selectively targeting these cancer stem cells or tumor-initiating cells, might allow for the treatment of patients with aggressive, non-resectable tumors, and prevent tumor metastasis. In addition, resistance to chemotherapy and conventional anti-tumor agents make cancer stem cells important targets for novel therapies. Therefore, targeting cancer stem cells alongside the bulk of other tumor cells will offer a distinct advantage over existing cancer therapeutics to eradicate resistance to current treatments. Equally critical issues facing cancer drug development are tremendous costs and long timelines that often end with drugs that either fail to make it to market or drugs that improve overall survival by only a few months compared to standard of care. Our team has developed highly effective methods for culturing cancer stem cells from patient tumor samples for drug screening and has leveraged this technology to develop a panel of cancer stem cell targeting antibody drug candidates. Through extensive pre-clinical testing, we have identified a lead candidate that we are developing for testing in humans for safety and ultimately clinical benefit. This drug will represent a new approach to targeting cancer that may provide a breakthrough in cancer treatment.
This project will benefit the citizens of California in three distinct ways. The first is that we will be developing a novel drug that will target a disease that often is associated with poor prognosis. This will benefit citizens in providing a better treatment option and provide the state with the benefit of decreased financial burden on the health care system from savings due to more effective treatments. Secondly, we will validate the approach of targeting cancer stem cells in the clinical setting. This will benefit the robust California biotechnology industry by validating a novel approach to cancer which could lead to additional drugs in this category or in other indications in the future. Finally, this project will benefit the state of California through job creation. Progression of our drug candidate will correlate with increased employment at our company. In addition, most if not all of our potential collaborators and sub-contractors will be based in California.