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Treating Late-Stage Prostate Cancer

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

Prostate cancer was the cause of 28,666 deaths in 2008, or 10% of cancer deaths in the US, and roughly 186,000 men are diagnosed with the disease each year. Docetaxel, a chemotherapeutic agent, is the only FDA-approved drug to treat late-stage prostate cancer, leaving a significant need that many biotechs and pharmaceutical firms are trying to meet. Results are starting to roll in from several key clinical trials of late-stage prostate cancer therapies. Start-ups embarking on drug development may face significant competition.

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Bellicum Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Bellicum Pharmaceuticals is developing a therapeutic vaccine for late-stage prostate cancer. The start-up believes that one of the reasons vaccines have floundered in the clinic may be negative feedback loops that desensitize the vaccine before it's had a chance to work. Bellicum's autologous vaccine is designed to avoid that. Its dimerizer agent is injected 24 hours after the vaccine, giving the dendritic cells time to migrate to draining lymph nodes before activation. When therapeutic vaccine cells are stimulated ex-vivo, they begin releasing key cytokines, such as IL-12, immediately.

Colby Pharmaceutical Co.

Colby Pharmaceutical aims to develop drugs capable of inhibiting key enzymatic and hormonal signaling pathways in prostate and brain cancers. The start-up hopes to help men who have been diagnosed with primary or recurrent prostate cancer, including those who have failed current standard of care hormone therapy or chemotherapy. The company's lead compound is an anti-inflammatory and anti-androgenic small molecule that binds the androgen receptor. In culture and in animals, Colby says that it is therapeutic for androgen-dependent prostate tumors. The molecule does not appear to be pro-estrogenic and CPC-100 is also therapeutic for androgen-independent prostate tumors-which would distinguish it from all other anti-androgens now on the market.

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