Dr. Pnina Fishman’s research, which sought to explore what keeps muscle cancer free, led her to discover that substances secreted by muscles leave normal cells untouched while restricting the development of cancer cells.
“Cancers almost never metastasize to muscle tissue, even though muscle makes up 65 percent of the human body. Muscle tissues activate a particular receptor, the A3 adenosine receptor or A3AR, that is found predominantly on the cancer cells’ surface, which inhibits the cells’ growth,” she explained to R&D Magazine.
Fishman’s clinical-stage drug development company, Can-Fite BioPharma, has utilized this research in its technology platform, which is being used not just for cancer, but inflammatory diseases, as well.
Fishman believed that if researchers could identify and harness relatively long-lasting compounds that activate the A3 adenosine receptor, it might result in a new targeted approach to treating various diseases. “As later work revealed, not only cancers, but also other conditions like inflammatory diseases could be inhibited utilizing this type of mechanism,” Fishman said. “We are actively using this approach to address inflammatory diseases, like RA and psoriasis, as well as liver cancer.”
She explained that mhe target is the A3 adenosine receptor, which is highly expressed on cancer and inflammatory, but not on normal body cells. Upon binding of the muscle-derived molecules to the specific target, it initiates a downstream molecular pathway, leading to cell death. At the same time, the normal body cells are refractory to the effect of these molecules since they do not bear the target. This is the reason that the muscle tissue is resistant to metastasis.”
At this time, Can-Fite is enrolling patients in its Phase III ACRobat trial, which is evaluating the lead drug candidate, Piclidenoson (CF101), as a first-line treatment and replacement for the current standard of care and most widely used RA drug, Methotrexate (MTX).
Another one of the company’s compounds, Namodenoson (CF102), is in two Phase II studies, one for the treatment of liver cancer, and another evaluating its treatment potential for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). The U.S. and Europe have both granted CF102 Orphan Drug Designation for liver cancer. Additionally, the U.S. also has granted the compound a Fast Track Designation for the same indication.
She added that it is still too early to speculate on a timeline for commercialization.
However, she said that the company has dosed more than 1,000 patients with the drugs, and the results suggest proof of concept efficacy in Phase II clinical studies. “
Can-Fite is involved in a number of licensing agreements with other pharmaceutical companies around the world. In Korea, Can-Fite is working Kwang Dong Pharmaceutical and ChongKunDang Pharm. In addition, the company has an exclusive regional license agreement with Gebro Pharma to distribute Piclidenoson for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and moderate to severe psoriasis in Spain, Switzerland, and Austria.