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UW-Madison Awarded $12M NCI Grant to Study Cellectar Cancer Drug

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

The National Cancer Institute has awarded a $12 million grant to the University of Wisconsin-Madison that the school will use to study Cellectar Biosciences’ leading drug candidate, the company said Monday.

Cellectar (NASDAQ: CLRB), which is also located in Madison, said in a news release that the university will study CLR 131, a therapeutic Cellectar is developing that it said has the potential to treat malignant tumors and certain forms of blood cancer, including multiple myeloma.

Cellectar said that UW-Madison will examine the compound in combination with external beam radiation, a treatment method that typically involves using a linear accelerator to deliver high-energy beams to patients’ tumors. The goal is to determine how effective the combination is at treating cancers of the head and neck, according to the release.

CLR 131 is currently in a Phase 1 clinical trial of patients with multiple myeloma, an incurable plasma cell cancer. Last month, Cellectar received a $2 million grant—also from the National Cancer Institute—to support a Phase 2 trial of the candidate. That study would also involve multiple myeloma patients, and possibly patients with other blood cancers.

The idea of the new study is to try to attack tumors on two fronts, said UW-Madison oncology professor Paul Harari: internally, using the compound, and externally, with beam radiation.

“This combination may provide a powerful attack method against challenging solid tumors where radiation plays a central treatment role,” Harari said in a prepared statement.

According to the release, Cellectar holds a patent for “CLR 131 in combination with external beam radiation for a wide variety of cancers, including head and neck.”

Cellectar did not respond to a message left Tuesday regarding how long it expected UW-Madison’s study of the company’s drug would last.

Cellectar was launched in 2002 by researchers at UW-Madison; one of the co-founders, Jamey Weichert, left the company in July.