Propanc Health Group Corporation, a Melbourne, Australia-based healthcare company focusing on the development of treatments for pancreatic, ovarian, and colorectal cancer treatments, announced it has filed a third patent on the use of PRP, the company’s lead product to target and eradicate cancer stem cells.
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are cancer cells that possess characteristics associated with normal stem cells — specifically the ability to give rise to all cell types. CSCs may generate tumors through the stem cell processes of self-renewal and differentiation, and are thought to persist in tumors as a distinct population, causing relapse and metastasis.
Propanc, in collaboration with the Spanish universities of Granada and Jaén, conducted experiments using isolated CSCs from patients treated with PRP, a once-daily suppository formulation of proteolytic proenzymes. The researchers studied the genetic pathways that regulate these cancer stem cells to compare their behavior pre- and post-treatment, with evidence strongly suggesting PRP may be effective against a wide range of solid tumors.
Specifically, results demonstrated that key epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) genes from CSCs are significantly downregulated, which means that these tumoral cells loose their capacity to invade and migrate, lessening the chance of cancer dissemination and development. EMT suppression occurred through three pathways associated by an important marker, transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β). By regulating these pathways, researchers may be able to stop the proliferation of cancer stem cells.
“After conducting these experiments, I conclude that PRP is quite dramatically suppressing the metastatic potential of CSCs by regulating the EMT process. This is quite relevant, because in CSCs, the EMT machinery is working very hard to maintain their metastatic potential compared with ‘normal’ cancer cells,” Dr. Macarena Perán, lecturer and laboratory manager at the University of Jaén, said in a press release. “Furthermore, the EMT seems to be suppressed via several different ways. Any one of these facts, per se, will be enough to justify developing a new compound, and we have identified three pathways, so the results are very encouraging.”
A near-term company goal is to begin testing PRP in colorectal or pancreatic cancer patients with limited remaining therapeutic options, Propanc said in the release.
“Back in the early stages of our company when I first administered proenzymes, extending the lives of some of my terminally ill patients in my clinical practice, I instinctively knew we were onto something important, but it has only been recent advances in understanding relatively new concepts in immunobiology and how they relate to cancer, have we uncovered the multiple mechanisms of proenzymes and their anti-cancer effects,” said Dr. Julian Kenyon, Propanc’s chief scientific officer. “This significant step forward in our scientific understanding will provide a great deal of confidence as we look toward initiating patient trials later this year.”
CSCs can remain dormant for long periods of time, evading standard chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments, and new approaches with the potential to reduce the risk of cancer relapse are needed. “I am delighted with the results achieved through our research partners, and look forward to further elucidating the molecular target by which the proenzymes exert their effects. Not only have we now shown that PRP halts a fundamental mechanism by which cancer grows and spreads in order to reduce the risk of relapse, but we can now turn our attention toward developing new compounds which further enhance these clinical effects,” said James Nathanielsz, CEO of Propanc.
“We have been able to identify a third invention in the field, which strengthens our intellectual property portfolio and increases the value of our company. I look forward to continuing our close collaboration with the universities of Granada and Jaén, who are world class in the immuno-oncology field and cell regenerative medicine,” Nathanielsz said.