BC Clinical Research Breakthrough: Prostate Cancer Drug to Begin Trials

clinical research

This year, approximately 24,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in Canada. For nearly 80 per cent of them, surgery and radiation will be enough to wipe out the cancer. However, for the remaining 20 per cent, there’s little that can be done to cure them—until now.

On December 2nd, Dr. Marianne Sadar from the BC Cancer Agency announced that a new breakthrough drug has been approved for clinical trials. That drug, known as EPI-506, has the potential to shrink tumours that resist current treatments.

Here’s a look at how this new drug could be a game changer, and what researchers hope to uncover during its first clinical trials.

The Story Behind This Potential New Miracle Drug

Students pursuing clinical research training will learn that it takes a lot of time, diligent research, and testing before a drug is market-ready. For example, EPI-506 has already been 17 years in the making.

Its journey first began in sea sponges off the coast of Papua New Guinea. For decades, researchers have been mining marine sponges for potential new drugs, as these little sea creatures are rich in defense chemicals.

The next step was to identify which chemicals possessed cancer-fighting properties and isolate and reproduce them to make a drug. That drug then moved on to animal testing, where it proved to be very successful at reducing tumors in mice—with apparently close to no side effects.

After promising results in animal testing, this new drug is ready for human trials.

After promising results in animal testing, this new drug is ready for human trials.

“I remember running around the building and showing everyone those photographs in sheer delight,” recounts Dr. Marianne Sadar to the Globe and Mail, “I could not sleep for two weeks I was just so wound up. It was such an exciting moment.”

That first moment of joy occurred in 2006. After more rigorous testing, her findings were published in 2010, in the journal Cancer Cell. Now that it’s officially been approved for human testing, EPI-506 is ready for the next big step in its journey.

How EPI-506 Works, According to Current Clinical Research

The reason why EPI-506 is so effective is because it behaves differently than current prostate cancer-fighting drugs. These drugs target the front end of proteins at the C-terminus. While that can sometimes be effective, cancer cells can develop a resistance to these types of drugs.

EPI-506 on the other hand, targets the N-terminus at the back end of proteins. “This part that we’re directing our drug to is the Achilles heel,” Dr. Sadar told the Globe and Mail.

As a result, EPI-506 offers a completely new approach to fighting prostate cancer, which is why clinical research professionals are so excited that it’s been approved for human trials.

What Professionals Hope to Gain From Early Clinical Research Trials

Making it this far is an important and rare milestone for a new drug. In fact, only one out of every 1,000 new drugs actually makes it to human trials. As a first-in-class drug, these early trials will be an exciting opportunity to determine the most effective dose of the medication, and if there are any unknown side effects.

It’ll be a small trial—only involving 50 participants—but if it successfully passes this stage of clinical research, then EPI-506 has the potential to move on to much larger trials. Perhaps EPI-506 might even become a brand new life-saving drug!

If these trials prove successful, EPI-506 could help thousands of patients across Canada.

If these trials prove successful, EPI-506 could help thousands of patients across Canada.

Do clinical research careers interest you?

Discover how you could learn how to write study protocols, monitor, and manage clinical trials with our Clinical Research, Drug Safety and Pharmacovigilance Diploma Program.