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Team’s potential lung cancer therapy lands award from SBIR

Sep. 27, 2018, 8:54 AM

by Tom Wilemon

A potential cancer drug aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of ionizing radiation in lung cancer patients is a step closer to development with funding support from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

Michael Freeman, PhD, professor of Radiation Oncology, is co-principal investigator with Diane Keeney, PhD, of Cumberland Emerging Technologies (CET) on the $2 million federal research award.

The compound, YTR107, is a small molecule Freeman and colleagues identified that has been shown to radiosensitize non-small cell lung cancer cell lines. The award will support development of a formulated version of the compound for treatment of stage IIb and stage III non-small cell lung cancer in humans.

“CET is excited to be working with Dr. Freeman on developing a novel treatment that may significantly improve the care of lung cancer patients,” said Josh Trantum, director of development at CET. “Our successful completion of the phase 1 small business grant and ability to secure this $2 million phase 2 award demonstrate the importance and value of academic-industry alliances. By combining CET’s drug formulation, regulatory and clinical development expertise with Dr. Freeman’s research discoveries, capabilities and insights, we can advance this exciting new medicine to the clinic and benefit this important patient population.”

Freeman worked with Peter Crooks, PhD, DSc, and Sekhar Konjeti, PhD, on YTR107. They share the patent with Vanderbilt and the University of Kentucky. The patent is licensed to CET.

“The interesting thing about YTR107 is that it is taken up much more in the tumor cells than in normal tissue, so you get a therapeutic differential — more damage in the tumor, less in normal tissue,” Freeman said. “It works better on cancer cells than normal tissue.”

The SBIR funding follows completion of work supported by a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant. That work entailed changing YTR107 from powder form to a soluble form and demonstrating its efficacy in cell lines. Once CET develops a human formulation without evidence of toxicities, the next step would be phase I clinical trials.

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