More cancer fighting drugs targeting disease common in men

Medical lab work at XBioTech in Austin. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Drugs makers say they have hundreds of immuno-oncology drugs ready to hit the market soon, and researchers are finding that some of these drugs are targeting cancers most common in men.

At 24, doctors diagnosed Matt Hiznay, with stage four lung cancer. Minutes later, he said the fight against the disease was on.

“I kind of just washed my face with cold water and I said, ‘OK, you’re a cancer survivor. Let’s get to war,” he said.

Doctors were able to pinpoint a mutated gene, called ALK,  in his body that was causing the cancer. They immediately turned to drugs that silence the gene and shrinks the cancer.

“The first one completely shrunk the cancer to the point that there was no evidence of the disease in my body,” Hiznay said. “And, it did that in two months.”

In immuno-oncology therapy, using the patient’s body to find a cure is a tactic that doctors are using more often. Furthermore, some of those new drugs are targeting cancers that strike men slightly more often than women, like lung, colon and skin cancers. Drug makers say it is a positive side effect that they didn’t intend, with more to come.

“Right now we have 240 immuno-oncology drugs in the pipeline, in development,” Caitlin Carroll, a spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, also called PhRMA. “That means that these aren’t just concepts being considered in the lab, they’re actually in clinical trials.”

Austin is fast moving to the forefront in the fight. XBioTech is a biopharmaceutical company based in the city. It is the first in the world to develop a 100 percent natural drug for colorectal cancer. Researchers at the company harvest antibodies from healthy people, grow them in human cells and then create the immune-oncology therapy. The body doesn’t even know the drug is there, which cuts down on painful side effects of cancer and making Chemotherapy and radiation no longer needed.

“If you now take cytotoxic treatments that bring you literally to your knees and you ultimately die from that tumor, that’s not very good,” said XBiotech CEO John Simard. “But, if you can render that disease so that you didn’t even know it was there, and you felt good. Then who cares if you have a tumor.”

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