The University of South Australia (UniSA) and Aucentra Therapeutics have announced plans to progress experimental drug Auceliciclib to a second trial phase, enrolling patients with glioblastoma, a brain cancer.

The second phase will recruit up to 50 patients with glioblastoma and evaluate the effectiveness of Auceliciclib against solid tumours.

This stage will assess the drug along with Temozolomide, a chemotherapy drug, in glioblastoma patients who have a reduced life expectancy, with a survival time of nearly 12 to 18 months following diagnosis.

In the first phase, which began in June last year, glioblastoma patients, as well as colon, cervical, pancreatic, uterine, and gastrointestinal cancer patients, were enrolled. 

The drug was found to be safe at various tested dose levels in these patients.

In pre-clinical models, Auceliciclib showed the potential to cross the blood-brain barrier, making it an ideal drug candidate to treat brain cancer.

Against other drugs being developed presently, Auceliciclib possesses two crucial advantages. Being more target-specific, the drug can reach cancer cells in the brain, and it is also less toxic.

Establishing the success of the drug in the trial will be a significant advance for treating brain tumours which have metastasised from other cancers, including breast and lung.

At present, trials are underway in Adelaide, Sydney, and Melbourne, in Australia. 

Subject to funding, the researchers plan to extend the trial to additional sites in all capital cities in the country.

University of South Australia professor Shudong Wang said: “Phase one usually takes up to two years if there are any safety concerns with a new drug, but we didn’t experience any issues with Auceliciclib, which is very encouraging.”

A separate trial of Auceliciclib as a single agent is also progressing in patients with various late-stage cancers, including breast, lung, ovarian, and colorectal.