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AB Therapeutics, an independent subsidiary of AB-Biotics that focuses on developing new drug candidates up to clinical proof of concept and then licensing them to pharmaceutical companies, has successfully tested two new molecules in mice that have proven highly efficient at treating lung cancer. After 4 weeks of therapy in immunosuppressed mice, tumor growth was roughly 70% less than in treated animals that had not received the experimental therapy. Furthermore, 10% of the treated mice showed tumor stabilization during the same period.

The two molecules, called ABTL0812 ABTL1014, were chosen based on data from in vitro experiments measuring cytotoxicity and proapoptotic activity (the capacity to provoke malignant cells to commit suicide) and from in vivo experiments measuring toxicity. The trial showed that the side effects of this treatment were much less severe than those observed in animals treated with a conventional chemotherapy agent (docetaxel).

"We are very satisfied because this trial confirms the promising results of the in vitro tests, not only regarding efficacy but also in terms of a factor as important as reducing the toxicity", notes Dr. Jordi Espadaler, co-founder and director of research of AB Therapeutics. Dr. Carlos Domenech, co-founder and CEO of the company, which is located at the UAB Research Park, explains that "the results obtained in vivo will enable us to start the preclinical phase, for which we have begun a new round of financing for investors interested in joining the project".

The company’s main shareholder is currently AB-Biotics, which plans to gradually reduce its stake in favor of new financial or technological partners. The candidates developed by the company could reach the market by 2016. Domenech stressed that the experimental treatment "could represent an important contribution to health and has huge market potential", given that current drugs are clearly insufficient for meeting the needs of lung cancer patients.

An innovative mechanism: Membrane Lipid Therapy (MLT)

Companies around the world are presently assaying more than 300 drug candidates for non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC), but as Domenech recalls, "The mechanism that we use is completely different".

This mechanism for the treatment of oncological diseases represents a new pathway for cancer therapy that has scarcely been explored to date: Membrane Lipid Therapy (MLT), whereby the activity of multiple proteins is altered by disrupting cell membrane dynamics. In conventional chemotherapy, the drug or drugs administered act directly on one or very few proteins in the malignant cells, such that tumors may resist treatment through only very few mutations. In contrast, in MLT the drug binds to membrane lipids, thereby regulating the dynamics of multiple membrane proteins, drastically reducing any possible resistance responses by the tumor and avoiding the side effects caused by traditional chemotherapy.

Fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy

The molecules being developed by Therapeutics AB have a much higher safety margin than conventional chemotherapeutic agents, and none of the side effects of the latter, which enables them to be administered orally. Thus, according to the company, patients could dispense with the current hospitalizations required for undergoing chemotherapy sessions, which would mean an improvement in their quality of life and major financial savings for the health system.

According to data from the Spanish Association against Cancer (AECC), lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, accounting for 16.6% of all tumors in men and 7.6%, in women. In Spain, roughly 20,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Although 42% of patients survive to one year post-diagnosis, only 15% survive to 5 years.

The Institut Català d’Oncologia (ICO) has estimated that the average total healthcare cost per patient is €10,182, 25% of which corresponds to the cost of chemotherapy. Moreover, lung cancer accounts for 11% of total hospital expenses and 2% of the total number of missed working days in the EU.


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