The Complexity of Cancer

Cancer is not as a single disease but a collection of diseases. After the human genome was sequenced, optimists predicted that we would identify a few genes which cause cancer, and that new targeted drugs blocking these genes would provide a cure. However, we have learned that cancer is related to the mutation of hundreds of genes—not just a few—and many patients have cancers comprised of different sub-types. Thus, even the newest single targeted therapies, while making a contribution, are not doing much to significantly change mortality rates for many tumor types.

Scientists have also learned that cancer development and response to therapy is determined not only by cancer cell biology, but also by the cancer cell’s interaction with its tumor microenvironment and the immune system response.

Omnitura's therapies are based on systems biology considerations, addressing the fundamentally complex and heterogeneous nature of cancer by simultaneously delivering multiple therapeutic functions and acting on multiple biological targets associated with carcinogenesis. We call this approach "multivalent immune-oncology" therapy. 

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men. According to the most recent data, there are more than a million new cases each year. Prostate cancer is the 5th leading cause of cancer death in men worldwide; latest annual estimates were 307,000 men. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, second only to lung cancer. 

Prostate cancer can be a serious disease, but most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it. In fact, there are nearly three million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer and are still alive today. 

Most prostate cancers are detected at an early stage and since prostate cancer generally progresses slowly, there is a tremendous opportunity to stop the disease. Image Credit: vitanovski

Most prostate cancers are detected at an early stage and since prostate cancer generally progresses slowly, there is a tremendous opportunity to stop the disease. Image Credit: vitanovski

Most prostate cancers are detected at an early stage and since prostate cancer generally progresses slowly (over a period of years rather than months), there is a tremendous opportunity to stop the disease from progressing to late-stage (metastatic and castration-resistant) disease.

One of the most difficult aspects of prostate cancer treatment is that there is currently no clear diagnostic method to differentiate prostate cancers that will become life-threatening from those that will remain stable. This uncertainty can cause tremendous anxiety for prostate cancer patients, forcing patients and physicians to consider a broad range of choices from active surveillance, to surgical intervention (removal of prostate), to radiation therapy (often accompanied by hormone deprivation therapy), to chemotherapy.

The Challenge of Treating Prostate Cancer

The complexity of cancer has now been well-characterized, yet most new treatment methods affect only a single biological target. Given the complexity and heterogeneity of cancer, it is not surprising that most late-stage cancer patients eventually experience drug resistance (i.e., progression of disease).

This understanding of cancer's complexity led oncologists to explore the administration of drug combinations (pioneered by Dr. Emil Frei in the 1960s) in an attempt to achieve a multi-targeted therapeutic effect and to overcome drug resistance. However, these combination approaches are often constrained by additive toxicity as well as access (due to the high cost of these drugs).

A New Paradigm is Needed

The next generation of cancer drug development will include multivalent drugs capable of disrupting numerous molecular pathways associated with cancer, while providing patients with good quality of life.

Omnitura Therapeutics is positioned to be a leader in this new multivalent drug development paradigm. It starts with Aneustat™ and prostate cancer.