CEO of On Target Laboratories, Martin Low, discusses On Target’s development of two new drugs: OTL78, for the treatment of prostate cancer that selectively finds, infiltrates and identifies cancer cells, even those hidden below healthy tissue; and On Target’s lead candidate, OTL38, that operates very similarly to OTL78.
Neal Howard: Welcome to the program. I’m your host Neal Howard, thank you for joining us here today. We’re going to have a conversation today with CEO of On Target Laboratories, Mr. Martin Low, he’s going to discuss with us On Target’s development of two new drugs OTL 78 and 38, both of which deal with cancer. Welcome to the program, how are you today?
Martin Low: Good Neal, thank.
Neal: Well give us a bit of background about yourself, other than being CEO of On Target.
Martin: I am a serial entrepreneur, this is my sixth company that I’ve helped start. And this one was started actually with my brother who is a professor at chemistry at Purdue University and he has several technologies that have been very successful and we’re hoping to make this one as well to help cancer patients especially during surgery.
Neal: Now we’ve had a conversation with a prostate cancer specialist here on the program talking about On Target’s development of OTL 78. What is OTL 78, how does it work?
Martin: It is a targeted die that is injected before cancer surgery for prostate patients. And so if a man were to come in to have surgery he would be dosed with this targeted dye which would then illuminate the cancer that the surgeon is trying to remove, enabling him to have if you will an extra eye on the cancer so that he or she is assured that they get all the cancer.
Neal: And I do understand that the getting all the cancer is key in the reduction in recurrence of prostate cancer or any type of cancer, I would assume.
Martin: Yes and prostate cancer is no different. About a hundred and seventy thousand men in the United States are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. About half, 80 to 90 thousand go in for surgery and of those, 90,000 about a third have aggressive prostate cancer which is critical to remove for sure and so our technology enable the surgeon to remove it all while avoiding damage to the nerves which control sexual function and urology function. So it’s very critical, not only do they get it all, but that they miss these critical nerves that can cause morbidity for quite a long time after surgery. So it’s important for the surgeons to know exactly where the cancer is so they can stop short of the nerve bundles.
Neal: Now you’ve also developed another product OTL 38, it it’s a similar type of product. Talk about this one and how it differs from OTL 78.
Martin: Well we’re excited about this, our OTL 38 is our lead molecule and with that lead molecule, we’re targeting ovarian cancer and lung cancer. And in ovarian cancer, we’re actually in a phase 3 clinical trial which means that our next step is to get FDA approval for it to be marketed for ovarian cancer patients. And ovarian cancer is an awful disease, it’s often not found until later stages and it spread into the stomach or peritoneal cavity and the success depends on how well the surgeon can debulk or remove all the lesions that are in the cavity. And our technology enables the surgeon to find these lesions so that he can fully debulk the cancer. And lung cancer, we’re in a phase 2 trial, about to go into a phase 3 trial, and that’s all about locating the nodule for the surgeon that they go in to remove something they’ve seen on CAT scan. Often it’s hard to find because it’s very small and we enable them to find it and avoid positive margins so that they get it all and also to find potentially additional cancer that wasn’t seen on CAT scan. So in both cases, we believe they will improve not only the patient’s longevity but also reduce morbidity. In these surgeries, both prostate and lung are generally done laparoscopically or in the case of prostate, they’re done robotically so the surgeon loses their tactile ability to feel and touch the cancer which is a major way to determine the cancers there. So they rely on visual contact only and our technology enables them to see.
Neal: Is it On Target’s goal to develop a universally effective drug that targets any type of cancer? Is that the goal?
Martin: Yes. The core technology is based on receptors that are found on cancer cells and there are different receptors on different cancers and so we need to find pathway for our die to enter into that cancer cell. For ovarian and lung, it’s folate. For prostate cancer, it’s PSMA and for others there will be other pathways for our die to be taken into the cell. We anticipate that we will need all four, maybe five different molecules like OTL 38 and 78 in order to cover all solid tumor cancers from esophageal to colorectal, to pancreatic, liver, renal, etc. So we will eventually be able to treat and help surgeons with all solid tumor cancers.
Neal: What type of an outlook as far as time do you think we’re looking at once we will be able to help patients universally with some of these drugs that you’re developing? And maybe some other folks that are developing similar.
Martin: Sure. I would anticipate within the next 10 years, we’ll be able to cover all solid tumor cancers. Obviously our lead molecule will be available in ovarian cancer within two years and for lung, three plus years, prostate four years. It’s about a five year development time once the drug is identified in the lab to take it through all the clinical trials. The good good news is that we’re not just focused on cancer. OTL 38 also binds or is taken into auto immune cells. So if you have rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease, we can identify the tissue that’s affected. And this is critical, for example, in rheumatoid arthritis where oftentimes patients are dosed with these monoclonal antibodies that are very expensive and the clinician has to look at the patient’s hand to see if indeed that the drug is working. We’ll be able to indicate to the patient and to the doctor if the drug is working much sooner within a couple three weeks because of visualizing the tissue affected.
Neal: Where can we go and learn so we’re online?
Martin: We have a website ontargetlaboratories.com that you can look at. This whole industry of inter-operative imaging, wherein they will visualize a targeted cell, is exploding and several large companies are very interested in this. So whether we develop it or somebody else develops it, this will be part of medical practice, like I said, within the next 10 years and will revolutionize, we believe, surgery. Not just cancer but eventually heart disease, autoimmune diseases. We are also working on an agent to highlight nerves so obviously when you do spinal surgery or brain surgery or prostate surgery, it’s important to avoid the nerves so that the patient has full function following surgery.
Neal: Well Martin, it’s been a pleasure. It’s very eye-opening this morning, thank you for joining us here on Health Professional Radio.
Martin: Thanks for having me.
Neal: You’ve been listening the Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at hpr.fm and healthprofessionalradio.com.au