The European Union (EU) has awarded Aromics—a Spanish biotechnology company—€1 million (Euros) for its BERMES project that’s working on a novel mesothelioma drug. These funds will allow the company to finish its preclinical trials for this new drug, NAX035.

The medical community needs to find effective targeted mesothelioma therapies because the disease has such a  low survival rate. The current list of approved mesothelioma drugs is limited to two: pemetrexed and cisplatin. Because of these limited options, any new projects, like BERMES, that look into potential new treatments are vital for current and future patients.

The money from the EU will help Aromics finish their preclinical trials, so they can move to clinical trials, which test how the drug works on humans. The BERMES project will take 2.5 years to finish, and it will have a total budget of €1.55 million.

About the NAX035 Mesothelioma Drug

The drug that the BERMES project is investigating is called NAX035. It was developed based on berberine, a natural chemical from the Berberis genus of plants. Studies have shown that berberine prevents cancer cells from growing. When cancer cells cannot grow and divide, they die off, making berberine a possible cytotoxic chemical (ability to kill cancer cells).

However, there is a problem with just using berberine: its bioavailability is poor. In other words, the amount of medication that actually reaches the cancer site tends to be very low, so the drug is less potent and, therefore, less effective.

NAX035 was created to help greatly enhance berberine’s natural effectiveness. The hope is that NAX035 will be able to replicate the cancer-fighting benefits of berberine, without being absorbed by the body too early. There were other potential drugs tested, but NAX035 was the first one to advance to this stage of trials.

“It is a pioneering drug, very attractive to the pharmaceutical industry,” says Dr. Carmen Plasencia, the co-founder, and CEO of Aromics.

“The Aromics molecule binds to a specific messenger RNA [Ribonucleic acid] and reduces the levels of a protein that is abnormally expressed in the tumor, and that is causing resistance to current chemotherapy treatments in mesothelioma patients. In this way we aim to address the root cause, stopping the synthesis of this abnormal protein and therefore controlling the disease.”

So far in the tests, the drug had proven to be effective at reducing tumor size when it was administered orally and when it was given intraperitoneally (directly into the abdominal cavity). The pre-clinical trials are also showing that NAX035 appears to be safe, with acceptable side effects.

About the BERMES Mesothelioma Program

The BERMES project—A novel derivative BERberine for Malignant MESothelioma—is studying the effect that the NAX035 drug has on mesothelioma. The goal is to create a new molecule from berberine that’s better absorbed by the body so it can better fight off mesothelioma cells. BERMES began in November 2018. Aromics aims to finish Their preclinical trials in 2.5 years.

Once the BERMES project is complete, Aromics intends to continue developing the NAX035 drug so that it can be used in clinical trials. During clinical trials, the researchers intend to discover how effective the drug is in human patients.

To continue their studies beyond pre-clinical trials, Aromics needs to partner with a pharmaceutical company that can produce the medication in greater and safe quantities.  The company is currently talking with different pharmaceutical companies to see which one will be able to create the mesothelioma drug.

With projects like BERMES receiving government support and funding, the future of mesothelioma treatment could change. Someday there may be more approved drugs for patients to try, including targeted drugs like NAX035. Maybe these drugs will eventually become the standard of care, and perhaps future research projects like BERMES will lead to a cure one day.

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Sources
  1. "Aromics receives 1 M€ from the European Union to boost its drug against the asbestos-related hallmark cancer," BioSpace. Retrieved from: https://www.biospace.com/article/aromics-recieves-1-m-from-the-european-union-to-boost-its-drug-against-the-asbestos-related-hallmark-cancer/. Accessed February 27, 2019.
  2. "Bioavailability and Bioequivalence in Drug Development," NCBI. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25215170. Accessed March 1, 2019.
  3. "Drugs Approved for Malignant Mesothelioma," National Cancer Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/drugs/mesothelioma. Accessed February 27, 2019.
  4. "Towards a new therapy for the treatment of Malignant Mesothelioma," BERMES. Retrieved from: http://bermesproject.eu/en/. Accessed February 27, 2019.

Last modified: March 18, 2019