QIMR Berghofer and LICR will conduct a Phase I/II clinical trial – funded by the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation – for patients with recurrent glioblastoma (GBM).
The patients will be treated at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) and the Austin Hospital in Melbourne.
Dr Bryan Day and Dr Brett Stringer, who led the research at QIMR Berghofer, said the study builds on work carried out by the collaborative research team over more than a decade.
“The treatment involves an antibody that targets a cancer protein on the surface of tumour cells,” Dr Day said
“The protein – EphA3 – was discovered by QIMR Berghofer scientist Professor Andrew Boyd in 1992.”
Professor Boyd also created an antibody which has been shown to specifically target cancer cells which express EphA3.
The antibody has been adapted for human use by American biotech company KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc. to create the KB004 clinical drug.
A Phase II clinical trial of KB004 is underway in leukaemia patients after a successful Phase I study.
Dr Stringer said the upcoming GBM trial would be the first test of the drug against solid tumours, as opposed to blood cancers.
“Unfortunately most new drugs tested for GBM have returned disappointing results and patients have very few treatment options,” he said.
“Once we begin recruiting, this study will have an immediate impact by giving patients access to an innovative treatment which has shown great potential in laboratory testing.”
GBM is the most common primary adult brain cancer and is almost always fatal, killing about 1,000 Australians every year.
The Cure Brain Cancer Foundation will provide $500,000 to the study over the next three years.
Dr Day and Dr Stringer said the grant gave researchers an excellent start to developing a much-needed treatment for patients with aggressive GBM.
“The study will determine how patients tolerate the drug and how their tumours respond,” they said.
“There is also a very important imaging component with brain scans to be performed to detect the borders of the tumours and determine how much of the drug crosses from the blood into the brain to reach the tumour.
“This will be a collaborative effort between clinicians led by Associate Professor Hui Gan, nuclear medicine specialists led by Professor Andrew Scott and scientists at QIMR Berghofer.”
Dr Day and Dr Stringer said they would like to expand and progress the trial as quickly as possible because there is such an urgent clinical need for new treatments.
“That will be dependent on securing additional funding,” they said.
The RBWH Neuro-oncology team and the Austin Hospital hope to commence the trial in 2015.
The QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute is a world leading translational research institute focused on cancer, infectious diseases, mental health and a range of complex disorders. Working in close collaboration with clinicians and other research institutes, our aim is to improve health by developing new diagnostics, better treatments and prevention strategies.
QIMR Berghofer gratefully acknowledges the support of the Queensland Government.
For more information about QIMR Berghofer, visit www.qimrberghofer.edu.au