Tocagen, a San Diego-based biopharmaceutical company, recently received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to further develop its novel brain cancer treatment. Tocagen announced the news in June. The company's promising trial results and private finance strategy were covered on the front page of BioWorld, the leading biotech industry daily newsletter.
Max Wallace, CEO of Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure, is gratified by the news. "Brain cancer patients need more effective treatment options," says Wallace. "As an early funder of Tocagen's novel therapy, we're very encouraged to learn of the trial's continuing progress."
Tocagen’s technology uses a virus that selectively spreads a therapeutic in brain cancer tissue, while not harming normal tissue. Specifically, the virus only grows in dividing cells, such as cancer cells. Once inside the tumor cells, Tocagen believes this therapeutic gene will behave like a Trojan horse killing the tumor cells from within without exposing the patient to high levels of chemotherapy that often cause toxicity.
The Phase I/II trial, referred to as "TOCA 511 & 5-FC", is being conducted at three world-class institutions: the University of California - Los Angeles, the University of California - San Francisco and the Cleveland Clinic. The safety data has been reviewed by an FDA monitoring committee and the participating study centers are now recruiting patients with recurrent high grade glioma at a higher dose of TOCA 511.
In 2009, ABC2 became the first non-profit organization to fund Tocagen. "Tocagen's technology was impressive and so was its management team led by CEO Harry Gruber, a gene therapy pioneer and successful technology entrepreneur," says Max Wallace. That year, Harry Gruber was invited to present the project at the ABC2 annual scientific retreat. The presentation helped connect the company with ABC2's network of prominent clinicians and researchers, including Dr. Tim Cloughesy, who is the principal investigator of the Tocagen trial at UCLA.