Molecular Targeting Technologies, Inc. (MTTI) said today it launched a collaboration with Taiwan’s National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) to develop new cancer therapeutics, using the company’s proprietary DPA delivery technology.

The partners envision applying DPA to carry anticancer drugs that can be specifically delivered to, and released at, the sites of tumors. According to MTTI, DPA technology is based on an unexpected discovery that certain dipicolyamine derivatives are effective in delivering a therapeutic agent to target disease sites that have phosphatidylserine exposed on the external surfaces of the cell membranes.

MTTI said the partners recently achieved a successful proof-of-concept in preclinical xenograft models, and is moving toward the selection of a candidate for clinical development.

“We are greatly encouraged by the robust activities and distinct advantages of this novel class of DPA-drug conjugates compared to conventional therapeutic agents in the colon cancer model. We are in the process of assessing the effectiveness of this new therapeutic agent in other tumors as well,” Chris Pak, MTTI’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

Privately held MTTI has licensed, and is developing, technology platforms to provide novel small molecule drug conjugate cancer (SMDC) therapeutics, as well as in vivo imaging agents.

The company’s lead product candidate is an SMDC containing the potent anti-cancer agent SN-38, a topoisomerase I inhibitor, with an MTTI-developed linker group. The linker group is designed to provide stability in plasma but be susceptible to enzymatic cleavage in the tumor microenvironment.

According to MTTI’s website, the product candidate successfully demonstrated retention of PS binding affinity, plasma stability, cellular toxicity to colon and gastric cancer cells (nontoxic to normal cells), and a relatively high tolerated dose in mice. Of particular significance, the company said, was the ability of the compound to inhibit tumor growth in a mouse colon cancer xenograft model.

For the in vivo imaging platform, two lead product candidates, 99mTc-Duramycin and 18F-TumorVue, are being developed as novel apoptotic cell-imaging agents for the detection of atherosclerotic plaque, cardiotoxicity and the effective monitoring of cancer therapy.

NHRI, established in January 1996, is an autonomous research organization under the supervision and support of Taiwan’s Department of Health. Cancer is among priority areas for the institute, with two research units devoted to the disease: The National Institute of Cancer Research, and Taiwan Oncology Cooperative Group (TCOG), formed to coordinate research and clinical trials among the republic’s institutions.

TCOG is modeled on the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group, formed in 1955 as one of the first publicly funded network of researchers, physicians, and health care professionals to perform multi-center cancer clinical trials.

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