RALEIGH, N.C. — Imagine a drug that can treat cancer without the hair loss and sickness that comes with chemotherapy.
A drug that promises to do just that is being developed in the Triangle -- and the tiny company behind it has big plans.
The work is going on at Erimos Pharmaceuticals, a company with just 15 employees on N.C. State University's Centennial Campus.
The company is developing a cancer drug it says will kill cancer cells without harming the normal, healthy cells.
"It's a very highly selective, highly targeted cancer killing agent that does not produce the toxicities that the other drugs and radiation therapy produce," said Neil Frazer of Erimos Pharmaceuticals.
The investigational drug, called EM1421 for now, is derived from a desert weed, which produces a sticky substance on its leaves.
"It's a substance that protects the leaves and the plant and we chemically modify that to basically get our chemical," Frazer said.
It will be a few years before the drug appears at a pharmacy. Right now, clinical trials are showing promise.
"We've actually seen total eradication of tumors of the mouth with the direct injection of the drug," Frazer said.
Right now, 30 patients are testing one of the three forms of the drug in phase two clinical trials.
According to Erimos, the drug has few side effects. Testing showed some brief pain on injection when directly placing the drug into tumors.
If all goes well with FDA testing, the drug would be available to patients as early as the end of 2007.