The Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) and Uniseed have announced a joint investment of US$16 million in QUE Oncology, a clinical stage biotechnology company developing novel cancer supportive care and anticancer therapies.
QUE Oncology was jointly established by Emory University in the US and the University of Queensland’s main commercialisation company, UniQuest.
QUE Oncology will use the investment to advance clinical development of lead program Q-122, a novel non-hormonal therapy for the treatment of hot flushes in women undergoing endocrine therapy for breast cancer. The company said the product also has the potential to expand its use in related conditions, like hot flushes associated with menopause.
"Breast cancer survivors are routinely prescribed drugs which reduce or block the action of oestrogen, a hormone that can stimulate the growth of breast cancers," said the company. "However, reducing oestrogen in women increases the likelihood and intensity of hot flushes. This can have a serious and adverse effect on the general wellbeing of patients impacting on their ongoing compliance with their required cancer treatment. QUE Oncology is looking to develop a therapy to address this unmet need."
Dr Chris Nave, CEO of the MRCF and managing director of Brandon Capital, said, “The symptoms of hot flushes can be so extreme for some women undergoing long-term preventative breast cancer treatment that it keeps them out of work and even routine daily activities can become difficult to complete. Evidence shows that up to 75% of women undergoing treatment suffer hot flushes in some form.
“In the most extreme cases, women can have over 20 events in a single day. The affliction can become so debilitating that some cancer patients have reported that they’d rather discontinue taking their cancer drugs than suffer continued hot flushes. We think that QUE Oncology’s novel approach has the potential to reduce these symptoms and substantially improve the quality of life for these women.”
UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss said the Series A investment was a significant endorsement of the prospects of the company and its programs. “This investment will support the company as it continues to navigate the clinical trial and regulatory processes required to bring this life-changing treatment to the market, where it could make a real difference to many women around the world, as well as seeking to progress its preclinical pipeline,” he said.
QUE Oncology is planning to undertake a randomised, placebo-controlled phase 2a clinical trial, building on results seen in a phase 1b trial, where over 85 per cent of patients experienced a reduction in their severe hot flushes.
The investment also coincides with the appointment of new leadership. Dr Rob Crombie will join the company as CEO.
Dr Crombie has held senior management roles with Prescient Therapeutics, Arana Therapeutics and EvoGenix. He has a strong academic background in cancer, including a doctorate in molecular oncology, and deep clinical development insight.
“We are grateful for the strong support of our new investors, who share our excitement for the potential of Q-122 to safely and effectively treat the hundreds of thousands of breast cancer survivors who suffer from hot flushes today,” said Dennis Liotta, founder and a director of QUE Oncology. “This funding will enable the company to further advance this promising product candidate in its lead indication of women undergoing endocrine therapy for breast cancer. We are also delighted to have someone with Rob’s background to take stewardship of the company and advance Q-122 through the next stage of development.”