Many eyes turned to WntResearch last year after the company presented unexpectedly positive observations from the phase II study NeoFox with Foxy-5. The observations have led the company to update the study plan and they have carried out a rights issue to finance the ongoing work. BioStock spoke to the company’s co-founder, Professor Tommy Andersson, about the observations and the work ahead.
The cancer therapy company WntResearch’s aim is for cancer patients to receive better treatment with the help of the drug candidate Foxy-5. The candidate is a peptide that mimics the endogenous protein WNT5A, a protein that has the ability to reduce the risk of cancer cells spreading that can then form metastases.
New observations in the phase II study
During 2022, Foxy-5 has been tested in the phase II study Neofox, which investigates its ability to reduce the risk of cancer cells spreading and thereby giving rise to metastases in patients with colon cancer. The patients in the study are diagnosed with stage II/III colon cancer and are considered to have a high risk of recurrence in the form of metastases after the primary tumour has been surgically removed.
During the summer of 2022, WntResearch announced that it had made unexpectedly positive observations in the patients treated with Foxy-5 in the study. After three weeks of treatment, the company noted a clearly reduced spread and invasion of cancer cells in the treated patients.
Right issue funds the continuation of the study
As a result of these observations, the company decided that the study would not be completed as planned and the recruitment of patients was paused. WntResearch developed an updated study plan for NeoFox, where the new observed effects are included as new endpoints.
To finance the continued study and operations, WntResearch carried out a rights issue around the turn of the year and subscription of the warrant program TO5 in April. In total, the company received approximately 24.1 MSEK and 10.6 MSEK, respectively.
Comments from WntResearch co-founder
BioStock talked to Professor Tommy Andersson, co-founder of WntResearch, about the new observations and the way forward.
To begin with, Foxy-5 aims to prevent the onset of metastases in cancer patients. Why is that important?
– Metastases are the main cause of cancer deaths. About 90 per cent of all deaths caused by solid tumours are due to metastases that have spread to organs in the body other than the organ where the tumour originally arose. The five-year survival rate in patients with non-metastatic disease (stage II/III) is approximately 71 per cent, while the five-year survival rate in patients with manifest metastasis (stage IV) is only 14 per cent.
In the first stage, you target colon cancer. How do you treat this type of cancer today and how is Foxy-5 supposed to help?
– The primary target group for Foxy-5 is high-risk patients with stage II/III colon cancer. At present, they are treated with surgery and in most cases with a subsequent chemotherapy called FOLFOX, a protocol that has been standard treatment for 15 years. Today, there are few new drugs under development for this patient group.
– Since Foxy-5 has shown a good safety profile with few treatment-related side effects in the patients treated, the idea is that our drug candidate can be combined with the established treatment given to the patient.
The observations that you communicated regarding Foxy-5 last summer, can you tell us a little more about them?
– Being able to see the same effect as we have seen in our preclinical studies, now in our phase II study so early, i.e., already after the patient received Foxy-5 before surgery, was very surprising. The observations are fully consistent with our in vitro and in vivo studies. We could already see that the cells’ adhesion capacity increased, which means that they did not have the same ability to spread and give rise to distant metastases.
– Therefore, it is very exciting to follow up the observations made in a larger population, where the new endpoints will be studied and hopefully further confirm our preclinical studies.
What new conclusions have you been able to draw about Foxy-5 after the new discoveries?
– Our conclusion is that Foxy-5 reaches the tumour and that it very quickly inhibits the ability of cancer cells to spread and thus their ability to metastasize.
– However, it should be emphasised that it is too early to draw any conclusions and therefore we have taken the decision to revise the study plan in our ongoing study to include new endpoints and change the treatment time to focus on and confirm the observations made.
What does the new study plan look like and how does the timetable change?
– The study will focus on the early effects of Foxy-5, up until surgery. The treatment with Foxy-5 will therefore be adjusted and only take place during the three weeks before surgery. Any further treatment with Foxy-5 after surgery will no longer be relevant, as the focus will now be on confirming the effects of Foxy-5 we observed on the primary tumour and surrounding lymph nodes until surgery.
– This will be done by the patients undergoing computed tomography, both before and after treatment with Foxy-5, and by microscopic examination of surgically removed primary tumours and lymph nodes.
Do you conduct any other development work in addition to the ongoing study?
– Yes, I lead a research group that conducts continued preclinical research regarding new knowledge about Foxy-5’s properties and mechanisms of action. The goal of this research is to use new knowledge to optimise how Foxy-5 is used in the treatment of cancer patients, and not only for patients with stage II/III colon cancer.
What are your best arguments for investing in WntResearch?
– It is primarily WntResearch’s work to develop a new therapy focusing on the great need for a new treatment that reduces the risk of recurrence after a successful surgical removal of the primary tumour and gives the patients a longer cancer-free survival.
– If WntResearch, through its clinical trial of Foxy-5, can show effects that counteract the early spread of cancer cells, I think we can make a real difference. In addition, various research groups have shown that the conditions exist for also treating several other cancers with Foxy-5.The content of BioStock’s news and analyses is independent but the work of BioStock is to a certain degree financed by life science companies. The above article concerns a company from which BioStock has received financing.