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  • Pharmaceutical company Starpharma (SPL) has finished the first phase of an anti-cancer clinical trial with some strong results
  • The trial tested the company’s DEP irinotecan treatment against colorectal, breast, and pancreatic cancers
  • According to Starpharma, its treatment showed some positive tumour-shrinking results and fewer severe side-effects
  • Importantly, zero patients in the trial suffered severe diarrhoea, which is a common side-effect of conventional irinotecan treatment
  • Phase two of the trial is set to begin immediately, with recruitment already underway
  • Shares in Starpharma are trading just over two per cent higher today, currently worth 98 cents each

Pharmacy and life science specialist Starpharma (SPL) has completed the first phase of its latest clinical anti-cancer trial with some encouraging results.

The company is trialling its DEP irinotecan drug to treat patients with colorectal, breast, and pancreatic cancer.

Results from the first phase of the clinical trial, which tested seven patients, showed “encouraging efficacy signals” in half of the patients treated. What’s more, patients experienced fewer side effects with DEP irinotecan compared to conventional treatments.

DEP delivery

Essentially, Starpharm’s DEP technology is designed to make the delivery of drugs more efficient.

The tech works to make sure the right amount of the drug is delivered to the right part of the body as efficiently as possible.

In the case of irinotecan, a marketed form of the cancer treatment drug already exists under the brand name Camptosar, or Campto. The treatment is a type of chemotherapy.

Irinotecan is typically only used to treat colorectal cancer. Interestingly, however, Starpharma said its DEP-delivered irinotecan showed tumour shrinkage and prolonged disease stability in all three types of cancers tested — even though irinotecan is not currently approved for use against breast and pancreatic cancers.

Side-effect reduction

Starpharma said the objective for its DEP irinotecan product is to improve the clinical utility of conventional irinotecan through the drug delivery system.

The goal is to reduce important toxicities in the drug and subsequently lessen severe side-effects. This was one of the most important findings of the first-phase trial.

Conventional irinotecan treatment comes with what’s known as a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “black box warning” for severe diarrhoea. These warnings are designed to inform users and health care professionals of particularly severe potential side-effects.

Ordinarily, between 20 per cent and 40 per cent of Camptosar patients experience severe high-grade diarrhoea during treatment which can often lead to hospitalisation.

Starpharma recorded zero cases of diarrhoea resulting from its DEP treatment.

Other side-effects of irinotecan treatment are common in patients undergoing chemotherapy, such as hair loss and an abnormally low count of certain white blood cells.

Starpharma said these adverse effects were still observed in its DEP treatment but were generally less severe than what’s usually observed in Camptosar treatment.

Phase two underway

Starpharma said with the success of phase one of the DEP irinotecan clinical trials, phase two is set to begin immediately.

The second phase of the trial will focus more on DEP irinotecan’s anti-tumour activity and efficacy in treating colorectal cancer and other forms of the disease.

Between 20 and 30 patients will be tested in the first stage of the trial. Recruitment for the phase two trial is currently underway.

Starpharma shares are trading 2.08 per cent higher today, currently worth 98 cents each. The company has a $365.11 million market cap.

SPL by the numbers
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