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GenSpera began widening its views beyond prostate cancer, Dionne says. If the toxin in G-202 could be released by PSMA in tumor blood vessels, these vessels might disintegrate, and the tumor might starve and die.
“The potential applications are so much broader,” Dionne says.
In GenSpera’s first small trials in 2011 and 2012, 44 participants with a range of different cancer types received doses of G-202. Dionne says the drug appeared to have no serious effects on the liver, cardiovascular system, or bone marrow. Kidney damage could be prevented by limiting the G-202 dose and giving trial participants plenty of water, he says.
Although the main goal of the first trial was to assess the safety of G-202, GenSpera noted that a few trial participants with advanced liver cancer survived longer than expected. Encouraged by those signs, GenSpera is now conducting a Phase II trial in up to 17 adults with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma who are no longer helped by sorafenib (Nexavar), a cancer drug co-owned by Bayer and Amgen.
In March, GenSpera also began a Phase II trial in up to 34 participants with the brain cancer glioblastoma multiforme at the University of California San Diego’s Moores Cancer Center. The company may also conduct trials in prostate and kidney cancer if it can raise the funding.
GenSpera (OTC: GNSZ) is a tiny virtual company, that had $3.6 million in cash at the end of 2013—enough to fund its operations through at least nine months of this year. The company last week announced a share offering to raise as much as $7.5 million.
Dionne, a former executive at Cephalon, which was acquired by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (NASDAQ: TEVA) in 2011, co-founded GenSpera in 2003. The firm began its preclinical studies in 2007, when it raised its first funds from outside investors. Dionne, who is GenSpera’s chief financial officer as well as CEO, is one of the company’s staff of two full-time employees. GenSpera contracts out all its other work.
“We’re virtual out of choice,” he says.
GenSpera’s scientific advisory board includes company co-founders John Isaacs and Samuel Denmeade, who are oncology professors at the Johns Hopkins University Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center.
GenSpera has raised $24.3 million since its inception, and the majority has come from high net worth individuals who often continue to reinvest, Dionne says. The company went public in 2009 and trades in the OTCQB tier of the Over-The-Counter Markets Group. GenSpera’s market capitalization is about $37 million.
Dionne says the company’s ideal plan is to seek a pharmaceutical company partner or buyer after conducting Phase II trials that show the potential of G-202 in solid tumors.
“We want to be valued across a range of tumor types,” Dionne says. The company has been built with the goal of making it attractive to big drug companies, he says.