Jussi Halleen, CEO
In a world where pharmaceutical companies are striving to find ways to prevent diseases like cancer, the very high failure rate of cancer drugs in clinical trials is disheartening—more than 95 percent. Pharmatest Services, a contract research organization (CRO), aims to turn the corners through its predictive preclinical efficacy services in the therapeutic areas of oncology and skeletal diseases. The company brings to bear its expertise in bone metastasis models to reduce the high failure rates in oncology clinical trials. “We strive to contribute to increase the life expectancy of cancer patients and improve the quality of their lives,” says Jussi M. Halleen, the CEO at Pharmatest Services.
Why the high failure rates in oncology clinical trials? Most cancer deaths are caused by metastases, and in many major cancers such as breast, prostate and lung cancer by bone metastases. Metastatic micro environment changes tumor properties and induces drug resistance. As a result of the drug resistance, bone metastases are incurable, despite the exponential progress in oncologic drug development. Over the years, preclinical testing for cancer drug efficacy has involved models wherein cancer cells or patient-derived tumors are injected into mice subcutaneously. Although this may seem simple and economical, the accuracy of clinical prediction is significantly low, owing to the difference in behavioral properties of tumor cells in the artificial subcutaneous microenvironment as compared to in the natural tumor microenvironment. While a certain drug combination may prove effective for a subcutaneous mouse model, the effect may vary in a real-life situation.
“The current problem is that pharmaceutical companies do not confirm efficacy of their compounds in metastasis models before entering clinical trials”, attests Halleen and continues, “so they do not know if their compounds affect tumor cells when they are in the metastatic microenvironment. Then they go to clinical trials where the patients have metastases, without any information about whether their compound should affect metastases or not. Moreover, way too often the compounds do not work, even though they showed great efficacy in subcutaneous models. This is one important reason for the very high failure rates.”
We strive to contribute to increase the life expectancy of cancer patients and improve the quality of their lives
Pharmatest has been the global leading provider of bone metastasis models for more than 10 years. With a keen eye on the future, Halleen highlights that the R&D team at Pharmatest is focused on developing humanized mouse models of bone metastasis to be used for confirming efficacy of immunotherapies in bone microenvironment. On the geographical front, the company is expanding its reach in the U.S., with offices in Boston and California. The long-term goal is to have research laboratories in the U.S. and grow stronger in the global markets.
Halleen further highlights that with its strong expertise in bone and oncology research, Pharmatest can help the pharmaceutical industry to decrease the high failure rates in clinical trials. Especially in oncology this will lead to massive cost savings for the pharmaceutical industry, faster entrance of truly effective new therapies to the market, and most of all increased life expectancy and quality of life for patients with metastases. While these factors will make a difference in the drug testing outcomes, Halleen emphasizes the importance of confirming compound efficacy in relevant preclinical metastasis models before entering clinical trials. With service providers developing preclinical metastasis models that can be used by the pharmaceutical companies to develop oncology drugs, Halleen believes that this evolution heralds a paradigm shift in the industry.