Written by Ι Stock Market Media — November 16, 2016
PharmaCyte Biotech (OTCQB: PMCB) has arrived at the door of U.S. FDA and awaits a pre-IND meeting with the agency. After years of surrounding its signature live-cell encapsulation technology, Cell-in-a-Box®, with some of the brightest minds in pancreatic cancer and fine-tuning its therapy and clinical trial design, the small biotech has reached the final test before it can begin its pivotal clinical trial in advanced pancreatic cancer.
PharmaCyte made two recent announcements that would be big for any company, but for a small biotech, the announcements are big news for shareholders who have been patiently waiting. First, it announced that oncologist, Dr. Manuel Hidalgo, who is the Chief of the Division of Hematology-Oncology at Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, has accepted the role of Principal Investigator for PharmaCyte’s planned clinical trial. And the company followed up that news with the announcement that it has requested a pre-IND meeting with the FDA for its upcoming pancreatic cancer clinical trial.
In PharmaCyte’s clinical trial, Dr. Hidalgo will once again be teamed up with renowned pancreatic cancer expert Dr. Daniel Von Hoff. Dr. Von Hoff is the Chief Development Officer at Translational Drug Development (TD2), the nation’s premiere oncology CRO and the company responsible for organizing and conducting PharmaCyte’s clinical trial.
Dr. Von Hoff and Dr. Hidalgo worked together on the clinical trials that brought the industry what is now the gold standard and the FDA approved treatment for advanced pancreatic cancer, Abraxane® plus gemcitabine.
PharmaCyte has already named a handful of clinical trial sites that are being considered which include the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Beth Israel Deaconess Cancer Center in Boston, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, the Baylor Cancer Center in Dallas, the City of Hope Cancer Center in Los Angeles and sites in Germany and Spain.
Creating an “Artificial Liver” to Target Pancreatic Cancer
PharmaCyte’s pancreatic cancer therapy is made up of pinhead-sized, porous capsules that are filled with thousands of genetically modified cells that act as a type of “artificial liver.”
PharmaCyte’s Cell-in-a-Box® is not a drug delivery system. There are no drugs encapsulated inside the porous capsules for any of its treatments. Instead, the capsules are filled with about 10,000 live cells that are capable of converting an inactive chemotherapy drug (ifosfamide) into its active cancer-killing form – just as the enzyme system in a patient’s liver would normally do.
Because the chemotherapy drug ifosfamide is a prodrug or an inactive drug, it can travel all over the body and have no effect whatsoever until it is activated in the liver. PharmaCyte’s therapy essentially moves the “normal” conversion site of that inactive drug (the patient’s liver) closer to the cancerous tumor by using Cell-in-a-Box® capsules and the live cells inside them to do the job of the patient’s liver or to act as an “artificial liver.”
How Does PharmaCyte Biotech Do It
The encapsulated live cells (Cell-in-a-Box® capsules) are placed as close to the patient’s cancerous tumor as possible. Once implanted, ifosfamide, the aforementioned chemotherapy drug that needs to be activated in the body, is given to the patient intravenously at one-third the normal dose. The ifosfamide is then carried by the circulatory system to where the encapsulated cells have been placed.
When the ifosfamide, which is normally activated in the liver, comes in contact with the encapsulated live cells in the Cell-in-a-Box® capsules, the chemotherapy drug is activated into its cancer-killing form right at the site of the cancer. This is “targeted chemotherapy” in the truest sense, and the company’s therapy has proven effective and safe to use in past clinical trials.
Chemotherapy with No Side Effects
The obvious question is why move the conversion site of the chemotherapy drug at all. Well, there are actually a number of reasons to move the activation site closer to the tumor. We’ll start with the chemotherapy drug itself.
Ifosfamide, when activated, has a very short half-life (time before it decays and no longer offers any effect), so by using the cells inside the Cell-in-a-Box® capsules to activate the drug at the site of the tumor, ifosfamide can immediately be the most effective when it’s the most potent before dying off minutes later.
Without a treatment like PharmaCyte’s, ifosfamide would be given to the patient intravenously and then activated “normally” in the liver, the activated drug would then affect tissues and organs other than the pancreas, and by the time it reached the pancreas, it undoubtedly would have lost much of its effectiveness. So, to be effective against a pancreatic tumor when the Cell-in-a-Box® capsules are not used, a large dose of the drug has to be administered.
Using ifosfamide in such large doses has proven to be damaging for tissues and organs including the patient’s liver, and because the activated drug would come in contact with such other organs and good cells throughout the body on its way to the pancreas, the side effects would be intolerable; in fact, this is known to be the case.
By moving the conversion site as close to the tumor as possible, PharmaCyte is able to give a much smaller dose of the chemotherapy drug (one-third the normal dose), which patient’s are able to tolerate, and because of the smaller dose, the treatment can be administered without any side effects from the chemotherapy.
Next Stop FDA Clinical Trial
With a list of oncologists and clinicians that reads like a who’s who now in place to lead PharmaCyte’s clinical trial, the company is now awaiting a pre-IND meeting with the FDA. After submitting questions to the FDA as part of a pre-IND meeting request where aspects of the content of the Investigational New Drug (IND) application itself (CMC section, clinical trial description, etc.) will be discussed, PharmaCyte is ready to fully engage with the FDA on its way to receiving the final approval it needs to begin its planned clinical trial in pancreatic cancer.
Once PharmaCyte navigates the pre-IND process and files its IND application, then the FDA will have 30 days to make comments, and if no comments are made, then PharmaCyte is effectively “approved” to begin its pivotal clinical trial.