Posted on April 1st, 2014
by Leslie Browne
When people think of cancer, they usually think of a malignant disease, of some negative force within the body to be actively shut down, attacked and destroyed, usually with cytotoxic poisons. Cancer is equated with sickness, plague, something the opposite of life. Conventionally, this makes sense on the face of it. There’s a problem though, an inherit flaw in our thinking; the first reaction, time and again, is to develop a way to attack and get rid of it.
But cancer keeps surviving, growing, spreading no matter how much we attack. Is it that the medications the pharmaceutical world has engineered are not smart or powerful enough, or is it something else? Is it, perhaps, that we’re thinking about this all wrong? That maybe, if we shift our thinking just a few degrees, we can come up with a radically new idea, a new approach to this epidemic?
Consider: cancer is made up of one’s own cells. It is not a foreign body, nor is it a pathogenic invader seeking to kill like a virus or bacteria. It is more like a tragic figure with too much energy and enthusiasm that grows and grows beyond the bounds of its environment, not knowing when to stop and not knowing how. Perhaps, instead of thinking of it like a disease to be attacked, we need to think of it as a native part of the body that simply has too much enthusiasm, too much growth, and needs to be “taught” when and how to stop.
All cells have a life cycle. They are born, they divide, they die. We scrub ourselves down in the shower to remove dead skin cells. Every day new blood cells are produced and old ones eliminated, each one aware of its life cycle. Genes control this process, as they do all other processes. Malignant cancer cells, however, have forgotten that they have a life cycle. They have somehow lost the “dying” gene or the ability to active it, what we call apoptosis. They have forgotten how to die, and in the process of forgetting how to die, they kill.
The question is not just how to kill cancer cells. After all, the human body – cancer cells included – is very good at adapting, evading harm, developing protection and immunity, which cancer has done in the face of all the attempts to destroy it. The question is more delicate, and that is, how to reeducate these cells rather than attack them, to remind them of their life cycle and how to teach them again how to die just like every other cell.
This is the central importance of Senesco’s mission. Not simply to devise yet another drug to kill cancer in the face of all others that have failed or at best only partially succeeded. Not just to be the next attempt in a line of valiant efforts across the pharmaceutical spectrum. Our mission is to completely reformulate the entire approach, to ask again the most basic question, “What is cancer, and what should we do about it?”
I see cancer not primarily as an attacking disease (though it is certainly that), but more as tragic cell error. Once that error is genetically corrected, the cell cycle can be relearned, with the malignant cell being “reeducated” about apoptosis so to speak.
Our flagship candidate, SNS01-T, is revolutionary not just because preclinical studies have shown positive results, but because it has fundamentally changed the approach with which we treat cancer. It is the first therapeutic designed to treat cancer not as a disease to be attacked, but as an error to be corrected. Rather than seeking out cancer cells to attack, it finds them naturally and reeducates them about apoptosis by activating and fixing the malfunctioning eIF5a gene that regulates cell death.
Those that follow us closely know that in preclinical studies, SNS01-T was shown to be taken up by malignant B-cells at a rate 5 times higher than normal naïve B-cells. The drug naturally affects only cancer cells, with no measurable death in healthy cells that had uptake. After all, if you’re a cell that already knows about apoptosis and when to trigger it, “learning it again” won’t affect you.
To some this may just sound like a quaint metaphor. Who cares how you think about cancer, some might say, just get rid of it! There is some sense to this, and in the end cancer is still a disease that must be actively eradicated. To that end, the most exciting thing about our pipeline candidate is its effect in combination with lenalidomide, a drug that also induces apoptosis, but through a cytotoxic attack instead of gene activation. In preclinical studies, a combination of SNS01-T and lenalidomide resulted in a survival ratio of 100%, as opposed to 60% with SNS01-T alone.
What this shows is that along with reframing the question, it is important to keep up the attack. Once you reeducate a cancer cell about apoptosis, it’s a good time to combine forces, to speed up that process with proven anticancer cytotoxins. 100%? We can only hope. We’ll see what Phase 2 brings.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I look forward to continuing to share updates about Senesco and our exciting technologies.
Leslie J. Browne, Ph.D.
President and CEO
Senesco Technologies, Inc.
Forward Looking Statements
Certain statements included in this blog are forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Actual results could differ materially from such statements expressed or implied herein as a result of a variety of factors, including, but not limited to: the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern; the Company’s ability to recruit patients for its clinical trial; the ability of the Company to consummate additional financings; the development of the Company’s gene technology; the approval of the Company’s patent applications; the current uncertainty in the patent landscape surrounding small inhibitory RNA and the Company’s ability to successfully defend its intellectual property or obtain the necessary licenses at a cost acceptable to the Company, if at all; the successful implementation of the Company’s research and development programs and collaborations; the success of the Company's license agreements; the acceptance by the market of the Company’s products; the timing and success of the Company’s preliminary studies, preclinical research and clinical trials; competition and the timing of projects and trends in future operating performance, the quotation of the Company’s common stock on an over-the-counter securities market, as well as other factors expressed from time to time in the Company’s periodic filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC"). As a result, this blog should be read in conjunction with the Company’s periodic filings with the SEC. The forward-looking statements contained herein are made only as of the date of this blog and the Company undertakes no obligation to publicly update such forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent events or circumstances.