Funding boost to advance prostate cancer treatment

Image: Professor Ross Hannan
20 September 2022

Researchers at The Australian National University and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, in collaboration with biotechnology company Pimera Inc., have been awarded a Prostate Cancer Research Program Translational Science Award by the United States Department of Defence (U.S. DoD).

The over $1 million grant will boost the collaboration towards bringing PMR-116, a small molecule drug, to the clinic for prostate cancer patients with advanced disease.

PMR-116 is a second-generation inhibitor of RNA polymerase I transcription. Inhibitors of its kind have shown therapeutic potential for cancer treatment as they suppress protein synthesis, a biological process crucial for cancer cells to thrive.

“Our preclinical data demonstrate that PMR-116 is now the best in class Pol I inhibitor and has shown remarkable efficacy in treating  human metastatic prostate cancer in animal models,” said Professor Ross Hannan, Head of the Cancer Therapeutics Group at the John Curtin School of Medical Research and co-Principal Investigator of the funded research.

Around the globe, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer and the fourth leading cause of cancer death in men.

Considering this cancer as a serious threat to the U.S. Service members, the U.S. DoD initiated the Prostate Cancer Research Program (PCRP) in 1997 to support research focused on eradicating prostate cancer. From FY97 through FY20, appropriations for the PCRP totalled 1.93 billion U.S. dollar.

“The significant support from this DoD Award will allow us to further characterise biomarkers of response to PMR-116 and perform the groundwork required to bring PMR-116 to the clinic for prostate cancer patients,” said Dr Luc Furic, Head of Translational Prostate Cancer Research at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and co-Principal Investigator of the awarded project.

Previous research led by Prof Hannan (left) and Dr Furic (right) confirmed the effectiveness of targeting MYC-driven ribosome synthesis in treating solid cancer.

Currently, PMR-116 is in a Phase Ia/b clinical trial being conducted in Australia to assess its safety and tolerability.

The DoD grant will bolster upcoming research that studies the efficacy of PMR-116 in patient-derived models, investigates novel combination therapies, and identifies biomarkers of response from the ongoing Phase I trial of PMR-116 in patients with advanced malignancies.

“We look forward to advancing PMR-116 through dose escalation, expanding into additional indications, and into Phase II to address several large cancer markets and improve patient outcomes,” said Mustapha Haddach, Founder and CEO at Pimera, in a statement.

This grant was supported by the Department of Defence of the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition under Award Number FY21-PCRP-TSA.