Funds secured for two cancer research projects

Two university spin-out companies have secured backing to develop cancer treatments.

OncoMark, a startup spin-off from University College Dublin, has secured €2.1m from a funding round that will see the company bring its main product to market.

The investment will allow the company to commercialise a product that is aimed at reducing the number of early-stage breast cancer patients who need chemotherapy.

OncoMark seeks to provide tailored patient treatment, which improves the quality of life for cancer patients.

The €2.1m was raised through funding from the Bank of Ireland Kernel Capital Venture Funds, the Irrus Investments syndicate, the Galway HBAN MedTech syndicate, private investors and Enterprise Ireland.

The funding will help finance the costs of gaining regulatory approval and full commercialisation.

“In the absence of accurate tests, the majority of early-stage breast cancer patients are treated with chemotherapy despite many not benefiting from the treatment,” said OncoMark ceo Des O’Leary.

“The OncoMasTR test is designed to enable a more personalised approach to patient care, helping clinicians to determine which patients should not receive chemotherapy, ultimately improving their quality of life.”

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) and Almac Discovery have announced collaboration on a new cancer research project.

The joint initiative will seek to identify how tumour cells that are resistant to treatment can cause cancer to spread to other parts of the body.

The research will examine the effectiveness of a new drug for the treatment of ovarian cancer that will go forward for trial on patients with solid tumours.

Researchers will focus on how a protein produced in the body called FKBPL has the ability to target cancer stem cells and can transform them into more ‘normal’ tumour cells, which can be killed more easily by radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Such an outcome could lead to improved prognoses for ovarian cancer patients.

“The funding provided by Almac will enable us to carry out further research in order to fully understand the mechanism behind its anti-cancer stem cell activity,” said Professor Tracy Robson, head of molecular and cellular therapeutics at RCSI.

“This research is a key step on the journey to making this treatment available to patients for whom all other forms of therapy have failed,” Prof Robson added.
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