By Brian Brus
Courtesy of The Journal Record
OKLAHOMA CITY – Dr. Courtney Houchen and his colleagues at Oklahoma City-based COARE Biotechnology are accelerating a new technology to market that shows promise in fighting pancreatic cancer and other solid-tumor cancers, he said.
The challenge of his work is that often bad cells are difficult to diagnose in the pancreas until it’s too late, Houchen said. The pancreas is key in hormone production and digestion. According to National Institutes of Health Cancer Institute projections, 44,000 cases of pancreatic cancer will be found in 2012, while nearly 37,400 related deaths will be reported. So even though the number of pancreatic cancers that are reported annually is smaller than some other cancer types, the value of research on such an insidious problem has significance in many other areas of health treatment, he said.
“It’s such a deadly, devastating cancer, and there’s no way to detect it earlier,” he said. “Over the years there have been very few drugs that make any impact on pancreatic cancer survival. It’s one of the most dismal of solid tumor cancers. You usually have about six months from the time of diagnosis to death.
“And the pathway to commercialization of technology out of universities is very slow and difficult,” he said. “But it’s the only way that drugs like this can get to market, through technology transfers for financing developing and testing.”
At the University of Oklahoma Cancer Institute, Houchen’s research team discovered a certain cancer protein in stem cells that can be targeted for treatment. He would not discuss many of the details of the treatment compound nor its delivery system.
“We think that it will have a profound effect on how the cancer starts and its strength,” Houchen said.
The company is ready to move from animal testing to humans, he said. COARE is on the verge of the pre-clinical phase, he said.
Financially as well, the company is still at least five years away from market and is currently working with the nonprofit i2E for grant-writing assistance.
“We are desperately looking for funding right now,” he said. “We are looking at government-state funding through small business innovator research grants, and of course we’re open to outside angel investors or corporate investment. We might consider corporate investments and partnerships with biopharmaceutical companies.”