New drug may lead to cure for aggressive brain cancer, Israeli researchers say

10% of animals treated with SIXAC gained ‘extended life’ and the drug ‘actually cured them of the disease,’ Sheba Medical Center reports

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Illustrative: A cancer patient and a perfusion drip. (CIPhotos, iStock by Getty Images)
Illustrative: A cancer patient and a perfusion drip. (CIPhotos, iStock by Getty Images)

Neuroscientists at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer have discovered a new drug they say has “the potential to cure terminally ill patients” suffering from glioblastoma (GBM), an aggressive brain cancer.

Arizona Senator John McCain recently died of the cancer, and according to medical industry sources, there over 240,000 new cases of GBM diagnosed worldwide every year.

Israeli neuroscientists Dr. Efrat Shavit-Stein and Professor Yoav Chapman, who have been working on the treatment at the Joseph Sagol Neuroscience Center, Sheba Medical Center, published their discovery in the December 17 issue of Frontiers in Neurology magazine.

Glioblastoma is believed to be the most common and deadly primary brain tumor. Despite extensive research in the field, the results of current treatments
are limited and there is no cure for the disease. It is therefore necessary to seek innovative approaches, the Sheba Medical Center said in a statement.

A memorial is left outside the Arizona State Capitol Rotunda where US Sen. John McCain will lie in state, August 30, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (AFP/ Robyn Beck)

In recent years, research has found that thrombin, a coagulation factor that is secreted from tumor cells, and PAR1, a protease-activated receptor, play a part in the pathology and progression of glioblastoma.

Based on this chemical structure, the Sheba neuroscientists created a drug called SIXAC, a new six-amino-acid-based compound, that inhibits the activation of PAR1.

Professor Yoav Chapman, a neuroscientist at the Joseph Sagol Neuroscience Center, Sheba Medical Center (Courtesy)

“The drug has shown outstanding results in an animal model of the tumor and we hope to be able to use it soon in human subjects with this terrible disease,” Prof. Chapman said in the statement.

In the first stage of testing, the effect of the drug on tumor cell cultures was examined and it was found to reduce their rate of growth, their ability to create colonies and their ability to create extensions that penetrate the brain tissue.

The effect of the drug was then examined in animals with high-grade malignant brain tumors. When the drug was administered by direct injection into the brain tumor, it had a life-extending effect and reduced tumor volume, the statement said. In about 10 percent of the animals, the drug “significantly extended life and actually cured them of the disease,” the statement added.

“These results strengthen the important role of thrombin/PAR1 pathway in glioblastoma progression and suggest SIXAC as a novel therapeutic tool for this fatal disease,” the researchers said in their paper. The results in animals “suggest an effect of SIXAC reducing tumor growth, edema and eventually increasing survival.”

Dr. Efrat Shavit-Stein, a neuroscientist at the Joseph Sagol Neuroscience Center, Sheba Medical Center (Courtesy)

“Our results suggest that SIXAC will be a very interesting compound in both studying and modulating PAR1 in GBM,” the researchers said in their study. “We hope that future treatment with SIXAC can be an add-on therapy to the accepted radiochemotherpy and improve survival in GBM patients, as well as potentially their quality of life by reducing tumor-associated edema.”

The team is now continuing to develop the drug and its administration, with the goal of treating humans “as soon as possible,” said Dr. Shavit-Stein in the statement. “The progress of research and development from now on will depend to a large extent on the financial investment in the project.”

Most Popular
read more: