A number of pharmaceutical companies are interested in a blood vessel growth inhibitor discovered by UWA Professor Arun Dharmarajan and collaborator Suvro Chatterjee. Their find has implications for the treatment of a range of diseases including cancer, arthritis and diabetic blindness.
Professor Dharmarajan (Dharma), from the School of Anatomy and Human Biology, said he and Dr Chatterjee, from India's AU-KBC Research Centre, Chennai, India, have discovered that a naturally produced protein is an angiogenesis (blood vessel growth) inhibitor.
He believes the protein, which the pair called Ang001, would be able to stop tumours from growing or spreading as tumours need a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients to multiply.
"Tumours get this supply by creating their own network of blood vessels via angiogenesis," Professor Dharma said. "Signals sent from the tumour to nearby blood vessels cause new blood vessels to 'sprout' towards the tumour to supply the blood that 'feeds' the tumour." He said the protein would stop blood vessel formation, cutting off a tumour's food supply.
Dharma said the protein could be administered locally and would not endanger healthy blood vessels. Their discovery has commercial implications as angiogenesis inhibitors are known to be in the clinical development pipeline of a number of major pharmaceutical companies.
The UWA professor said the protein is secreted by a body's cells and because it is natural, should cause fewer side effects when used as a treatment. Dharma said he was focused on the molecular side of the research and there was still plenty of work to accomplish.
"We need to break the protein into smaller fragments and find out which parts of it are active," he explained. "We also need to find out which part of a blood vessel it is binding to."
Dharma said pre-clinical trials on mice had so far been successful. An artificial benign tumour created in a mouse was successfully treated with Ang001. The second phase would involve introducing a real, malignant tumour into a mouse and measuring the effect.
"We are confident that Ang001 will stop the tumour from growing or spreading." However, he said they were not yet sure how long it would take or what dosage was needed.
Dharma said there was worldwide interest in angiogenic therapies. "There are two other angiogenesis drugs already in the market and others being clinically tested," he said.
Dharma is being assisted by Simon Handford of UWA's Office of Industry and Innovation (OII) and said he expected it would be about ten years before Ang001 was on the market and he hoped to develop a collaborative relationship with a company that would commercialise Ang001.
Photo: Paul Ricketts, DUIT Multimedia