Switching off cancer genes

Written on the 13 May 2009

PROGEN Pharmaceuticals is making progress in a technology aiming to ‘switch off’ cancerous genes. 
A pre-clinical study found that Progen’s epigenetic technology is able to inhibit tumour-suppressing enzymes. CEO Justus Homburg is excited about the results.
“In epigenetics we try to switch genes to change how that cell behaves, how to stop it being cancerous rather than saying cancer cells are bad and let’s kill them off — it represents a big shift in the paradigm and that’s why epigenetics is so exciting,” explains Homburg.
But drug development is a lengthy process and Homburg predicts it could be another six years before the product PG11144 is fully developed and on the market as the first, second and third phases of trials still need to be carried out.
“Could it be a long term development? Yes, that could very well be the case, but it’s something well worth pursuing because it is a dramatic change,” he says.
Homburg points out the very risky nature of the drug development industry but he believes the technology’s potential is backed up by the data that shows it does have an effect on tumours.
“We think there’s an opportunity out there, but the vast majority of drug developments don’t succeed,” he says.
“We may be only able to target a specific cancer or a specific disease of a specific cancer – there’s a lot to learn but it’s potentially quite groundbreaking.”
Homburg is confident that Progen is in a good financial position and is comfortable with the company’s patent on the technology.
“One of the things to bear in mind is that we’ve been through a lot of corporate turmoil, but we have been able to put an awful lot of that behind ourselves and during that time pursued research in all of our products,” he says.
“These latest findings prove we have the technology, the expertise and the resources to progress our strong product pipeline.”





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