Panther Biotechnology said today it has licensed from Northwestern University rights to develop and commercialize new compounds designed to enhance efficacy and decrease toxic side effects of a new category of anticancer drugs.

The new compounds, called Numonafides, are derivatives of the anticancer drug Amonafide that are engineered to avoid acetylation and eliminate a toxic metabolite. Numonafides have demonstrated broad in vitro activity in blood, cervical, colon, gastric, liver, lung, and skin cancers.

According to Panther, lab results suggest that the lead Numonafide compound has a broad spectrum of antitumor activities with minimal toxicity and minimal chances of developing drug resistance.

In mouse xenograft models using various single dose and multiple dose regimens, Numonafide was equally as effective as Amonafide in inhibiting tumor growth, Panther states on its website, while Numonafide was tolerated by the animals at much higher doses and showed greatly reduced toxicity.

Panther said it is conducting additional preclinical studies to support an IND submission during the fourth quarter of this year, with the intention of launching a Phase I/II study by year’s end. The initial target indication is treatment refractory acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and may include other cancers such as triple negative breast cancer, the company said.

“Drugs that bind DNA and inhibit genome associated proteins confer survival benefit in patients with AML, but it has been difficult to treat patients with such drugs due to off target toxicity concerns,” Jayesh Mehta, M.D., a Panther director and hematologist at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a statement. “The Numonafides could unlock a new highly effective and minimally toxic treatment paradigm that may even cure a high percentage of patients with AML—and perhaps certain other cancers beyond AML.”

Panther CEO Evan Levine added that his company is in advanced discussions with owners of other potentially complementary technologies for treatment of blood, and other cancers: “We hope to be in a position soon to announce the acquisition and/or licensing of multiple additional development candidates for our pipeline.”

Levine added that the deal with Northwestern “represents an expansion of our intellectual property and technology portfolio that we are confident will ultimately lead to a broadening of our pipeline.”

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