KU startup gets federal contract to develop more effective breast cancer treatment

LAWRENCE (KSNT) – A University of Kansas startup has received a federal contract to continue developing more effective cancer treatments. Hylapharm has received a $300,000 small business innovation research contract to repurpose an existing drug for breast cancer. Researchers will seek to find new drug delivery methods.

Hylapharm‘s new project seeks to combat triple negative breast cancer, which is more aggressive and difficult to treat. According to the university, the company’s sicentists have “attached cancer-fighting drugs to nano-sized particles of a naturally occurring polymer in the body.

“You can think of hyaluronan as a kind of Trojan horse,” explained Daniel Aires, HylaPharm’s president and CEO and KU Medical Center division director of dermatology. “Compared to normal injections into the veins, we can get much more of the drug where it needs to go while minimizing side effects in other parts of the body by injecting it directly into the main cancer lesion.”

Rapamycin is the project’s active drug which destroys cancer stem cells and makes chemotherapy more effective. HylaPharm claims the company’s drug technology delivers 100 times more of a drug directly to the tumor and to the lymph nodes where cancer spreads. Domestic dogs diagnosed with oral cancer have been effectively treated, and the company is working to begin human trials. Scientists must conduct another year of study, apply again for a second phase of funding, and at that point should be able to begin testing in human trials.

The National Cancer Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, issued the award. HylaPharm is one of 34 KU startup companies.

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