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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hand Grenades against cancer

Every now and then..
I come across someone who has done some good research.
I come across someone who knows how things work and can think "outside the box".

I wish it happened more often.

In his article, 5 attractive stocks under $5, Michael Brush discusses an interesting company and stock called Genspera.

Even in this age of economic uncertainty, smart people are still developing new weapons against cancer, the second-most-common cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease. Craig Dionne, who headed up discovery research in biology at Cephalon (CEPH, news, msgs) for several years, now leads a tiny biotech startup called Genspera (GNSZ, news, msgs), which is developing what he likes to call a "hand grenade" against cancer.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have figured out a way to put a chemical "pin" on a powerful anti-cancer drug called thapsigargin, extracted from a readily available weed. The pin deactivates the drug, allowing it to circulate in the body without causing damage to good cells.

Enzymes from tumors "pull the pin," activating the drug only near the tumors. The drug destroys blood vessels feeding tumors, with limited damage elsewhere in the body. Genspera, which bought this approach from the Johns Hopkins professors who developed it, thinks it could be effective against a range of cancers.

The drug also causes cancer cells to flood with calcium, killing them. This approach is crucial against slow-dividing cells such as those in prostate-cancer tumors. Many chemotherapies take out cancer cells only when those cells divide; Genspera's compound doesn't wait.

Genspera is a risky investment, of course, as is any biotech startup. Its "hand grenade" approach looks effective in animals but may not work in humans. And it is still in early "phase one" testing, which checks for safety. However, I'm betting Dionne's two-decades-plus experience in drug development offsets these risks.

I think I'll add this one to one of my none monthly watch lists.

More about Genspera.


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