Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center along with Danish researchers have announced the development of a novel, investigational anticancer drug (G202) that has been described as a molecular grenade that targets cancer cells. The drug is able to travel undetected by normal cells through the bloodstream until it is activated by a specific cancer proteins, then kaboom!

The drug, which is made from a weed, has been shown to destroy the cancer cells and their direct blood supplies while sparing healthy blood vessels and tissues.

In studies G202 is administered over three days. So far the drug reduced the size of human prostate tumors grown in mice (not humans) by an average of 50 percent within 30 days. To give you a comparative understanding, G202 outperformed docetaxel. G202 reduced seven of nine human prostate tumors in mice by more than 50 percent in 21 days. Docetaxel reduced one of eight human prostate tumors in mice by more than 50 percent in the same time period.

According to a report in the June 27 journal, Science Translational Medicine, the researchers also reported that G202 produced at least 50 percent regression in models of human breast cancer, kidney cancer and bladder cancer.

Because of these great mouse model results, researchers at Johns Hopkins have performed a phase I clinical trial to assess safety of the drug. So far they have treated 29 men with advanced cancer. In addition to Johns Hopkins, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Texas-San Antonio are participating in the trial. A phase II trial to test the drug in patients with prostate cancer and liver cancer is planned. I will let you know when these trials are started.

The drug G202 is chemically derived from a weed that grows in the Mediterranean region. The weed has since the time of ancient Greece has been known to be toxic to animals. In Arab caravans, the plant was known as the “death carrot” because it would kill camels if they ate it.

The drug is injected and then travels through the bloodstream until it finds the site of the cancer cells. When it meets the cancer cells it is exposed to a protein called prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA). PSMA is released by cells lining tumors of the prostate and other areas, and in effect “pulls the pin” on G202, releasing cell-killing agents into the tumor and the blood vessels that feed it, as well as to other cells in the vicinity.

Again, we are looking at a number of exciting, new drug potentials to combat this dread disease, advanced prostate cancer.

Joel T Nowak, M.A., M.S.W.