In collaboration with Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia, Zelda Therapeutics is testing a range of the company’s cannabinoid-based formulations and protocols against Curtin’s suite of in vitro pancreatic cancer models, as well as against human pancreatic cell cancer lines grown in the laboratory.
Curtin Professor Marco Falasca, from the School of Biomedical Sciences, and his team are experts in the investigation of cell signalling pathways, such as those found in cancerous tumour cells, which are responsible for regulating the internal cellular processes where the uncontrolled tumour growth begins.
The aim of this work is to test the impact of Zelda’s cannabinoid formulations as stand-alone treatments, as well as in combination with existing chemotherapy drugs such as Abraxane and Gemcitabine, which are often used to treat pancreatic cancer.
There is a growing body of evidence that whole-plant cannabinoid extracts can impede cancer growth and potentially render the tumour more responsive to chemotherapeutic agents. This program seeks to identify whether Zelda formulations can generate anti-cancer activity, both alone and in combination with chemotherapeutic agents.
These studies mirror current human treatment protocols to generate relevant data for potential future human clinical trials. The potential of this work is illustrated by the fact that pancreatic cancer is the 12th most common cancer globally.
Working with researchers at Complutense University in Spain, Zelda Therapeutics continues to generate positive research results from its breast cancer research program.
The pre-clinical research program on cannabinoids as anti-cancer agents is building on positive results from the company’s initial proof-of-concept study in 2016 and follow-on studies in 2017.
The most important of the main findings was that anti-cancer effects were observed across a range of different breast cancer cell lines using Zelda’s formulations, particularly in tumour re-occurrence, which is a common concern for women following treatment of breast cancer.
This research is ongoing: in particular, it is investigating the effect of cannabinoids on cancer stem cell-like cells. These cells are cancer cells found within tumours that are self-renewing, causing tumour re-growths.
Working with researchers at the Telethon Kids Institute (TKI) at Perth Children’s Hospital (PCH) in Western Australia in a study of paediatric brain cancer, Zelda Therapeutics has demonstrated that two chemicals naturally occurring in the cannabis plant, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), have some anti-cancer effects. The next phase in this brain cancer research is to compare the results from the company’s whole plant extracts versus the pure THC and pure CBD results: this research is ongoing.
DIABETES RELATED COGNITIVE DECLINE
Working with researchers at the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute at Curtin University in Perth, Zelda Therapeutics is examining the potential for cannabinoids to treat diabetes-associated cognitive decline. One of the complications of diabetes is damage to blood vessels in the brain, which is associated with cognitive decline, which can lead to dementia and other conditions. Zelda Therapeutics is testing its cannabinoid formulations on validated animal models of diabetic cognitive decline developed by Curtin University. This research is ongoing.
As with all of the company’s targeted ailments, diabetes-associated cognitive decline represents a large unmet need: it is a rapidly growing market, with the number of dementia sufferers expected to almost double every 20 years, reaching 75 million in 2030. In 2018 the global cost of dementia was estimated at more than US$1 trillion ($1.4 trillion).