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Azaya cancer drug trial begins
December 18, 2009

By Wendy Rigby / KENS

Patients in San Antonio and Dallas will be the first to test a new cancer drug made in the Alamo City. The FDA has just cleared the way for clinical trials in humans.

Azaya Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company on a mission: to make chemotherapy safer and more effective. Conventional cancer treatments can have toxic side effects on healthy tissue, limiting their long-term success in battling the actual disease.
 
Azaya is taking a totally new approach by encapsulating a common agent, Taxotere, in what’s called a liposome.
 
“We’ve simply taken an empty cell structure and we’ve put the cytotoxic agent inside of it,” explained Jeffrey Kahl, Ph.D., vice president of research and development for Azaya. “So we’ve encapsulated it so that it’s not floating around in the circulatory system as a naked drug.”
 
Azaya’s employees use a patented process to make the drug in a size that’s one-twentieth as big as a red blood cell. The tiny particles are freeze-dried, and the drug is reconstituted with sterile water when it’s infused into patients.
 
ATI-1123 is the first cancer drug developed entirely in San Antonio to make it to clinical trial. If it works, it could be on the market in five to eight years.
 
“This is an opportunity for us to create new cancer therapies that are safer and probably eliminate the side effects and really help them fight their battle against cancer,” Kahl said.
 
Patients at the START Center in San Antonio and the Mary Crowley Cancer Research Center in Dallas will try Azaya’s product first. It’s new hope for people with solid tumors that have not responded to other anti-cancer agents.

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