Press Release

Institut Pasteur Korea Developed Innovative Anticancer Drug Candidate that Reduces the Risk of Liver Cancer Recurrence

Institut Pasteur Korea Developed Innovative Anticancer Drug Candidate that Reduces the Risk of Liver Cancer Recurrence

- Development of a new drug candidate that can overcome anti-cancer drug resistance and liver toxicity, which are side effects of existing liver cancer treatments -
Institut Pasteur Korea (CEO: Wang-Shick Ryu) succeeded in developing a new concept of liver cancer drug candidate, raising possibility of overcoming the problems of recurrence and hepatotoxicity, the side effects of existing liver cancer treatments.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death behind cardiovascular diseases according to the World Health Organization. For liver cancer, the death toll as of 2018 stands at about 780,000 people, following lung cancer and colon cancer. In particular, the incidence of liver cancer in Asia, including Korea, China and Japan, is among the highest in the world. However, currently used primary treatments for liver cancer, such as Sorafenib and Lenvatinib, are effective only in less than about 10% of patients in Asians, significantly lower than Westerners. It is also administered to patients only on a limited basis because of the risk of recurrence due to anti-cancer drug resistance and side effects of liver toxicity.

The researchers of Institut Pasteur Korea focused on developing new drug candidates to minimize the risk of recurrence as well as to lower the liver toxicity. Based on the fact anticancer drug resistance and cancer recurrence are caused by tumor stem cells, the researchers established an innovative compound efficacy evaluation system based on a new concept of mixed culture model. As a result applying the mixed culture model to the image-based high throughput screening (Phenomic Screening) to test efficacy of compounds, researchers successfully developed a new drug candidate that specifically kills tumor cells and tumor stem cells.

The mixed culture model established by Institut Pasteur Korea makes it distinguishable from  previous studies in that it is composed similarly to the actual in vivo liver tissue where various substrate cells, immune cells, liver cancer cells, liver cancer stem cells, and normal liver cells are mixed. In previous studies, it was difficult to detect the toxicity of compounds as the anti-cancer efficacy over tumor cells only was tested. Leveraging this new approach, not only the anti-cancer effects of compounds but also the liver toxicity of normal cells was analyzed at once, enabling researchers to identify the novel drug candidates with excellent anti-cancer efficacy and low hepatotoxicity.

Dr. Haengran Seo, head of the Cancer Biology Research Team of Institut Pasteur Korea, said, "The five-year survival rate after liver cancer surgery and anti-cancer treatment determines a patient’s fate" and added, “By helping to accelerate development of innovative treatment that can lower the risk of recurrence and is less toxic, we would like to contribute to improving the survival rate and the quality of life of patients.”

Institut Pasteur Korea transferred the new drug candidate to J2H Biotech Co., Ltd. (CEO: Hyung Chul Ryu, Jason Kim) on the 12th of Dec. 2019 for further development.

The research was supported by the Ministry of Science and ICT and the National Research Foundation.