Lab Canada

Potential anti-cancer compounds licensed for development

Saskatoon, SK – The University of Saskatchewan and Mississauga-based drug development company YM BioSciences have signed a worldwide licensing agreement for the commercial development of new molecular compounds with potential to enhance cancer drug therapies.

Under the agreement, YM BioSciences plans to undertake the clinical development of these compounds, known as propargylamines, for the treatment of human diseases including cancer.

"It’s very exciting for me after all these years of lab work to see that these compounds may finally be evaluated clinically," said Rob Warrington, biochemist with the university. "What these new compounds do is modulate or alter the action of conventional anti-cancer drugs so that they diminish harm done otherwise to normal cells. These modulators also increase the ability of anti-cancer drugs to kill tumor cells and have been shown to overcome drug-resistance traits that are often problematic in cancer therapy."

"This new technology platform represents an additional opportunity for YM BioSciences to expand its already significant franchise in cancer through the development of a new generation of combination drug treatments that enhance the cytotoxic activities of chemotherapeutic drugs," says David Allan, CEO and chair of YM BioSciences.

The concept of using modulating compounds in cancer therapy was originally discovered by Dr Warrington more than 30 years ago. Five years ago, he began a collaboration with the university’s neuropsychiatry research unit which was working on compounds with potential to help prevent Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other neurological diseases. The result was the discovery that the neuro-protective compounds developed by the unit’s research team were also powerful modulators in cancer research experiments.

In addition to Dr Warrington, other U of S researchers involved in the licensing agreement are Peter Yu, Lillian Dyck, and Xin Min Li, all with the university’s neuropsychiatry research unit. Other inventors of the compounds have retired or left the university.

YM BioSciences plans to focus its own resources on the cancer applications and seek partners to advance the neurological applications. The company’s current lead drug is another modulating compound called tesmilifene which is undergoing a pivotal Phase III trial to confirm its ability to enhance chemotherapy in women with breast cancer.