Race Initiates University of Newcastle Collaboration to Develop a Genomics-based Companion Diagnostic for Zantrene

3 November 2021 – Race Oncology Limited (“Race”) is pleased to announce that it has entered into a collaborative preclinical research program with The University of Newcastle to develop a companion diagnostic to support the use of Zantrene® as a precision oncology treatment, targeting the FTO protein. Eminent genomics researcher, Professor Murray Cairns of the University of Newcastle, will lead the project.

Precision oncology utilises companion diagnostic tests to identify genetic changes in a patient’s cancer that render the cancer sensitive to a particular anti-cancer treatment1. By matching treatment to the cancer’s sensitivities, patients gain better treatment outcomes and avoid unnecessary side effects. Anti-cancer drugs with a companion diagnostic have a significantly increased probability of being approved by regulatory agencies like the US Food and Drug Administration, the European Medicines Agency and Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration2.

This project entitled “Genome-wide epitranscriptomic analysis of N6-methyl-adenosine modification at nucleotide resolution using RNA sequencing to identify biomarkers of aberrant tumour RNA methylation” builds on patentable IP developed by Race and will utilise the latest RNA genomics technologies to identify clinically relevant biomarkers of Zantrene sensitivity in human cancer cells and tissue samples.

“Race is extremely pleased to be working with Professor Cairns on this project. He is one of the leading researchers in the RNA genomics field and his background and expertise will maximise our chances of a successful outcome. For companies like Race, having a proprietary companion diagnostic is of increasing importance for our precision oncology clinical programs and will add significant IP protection around Zantrene.”

Race Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Daniel Tillett

This work complements the recently announced FTO biomarker collaborative program with the Chaim Sheba Medical Center (ASX announcement: 27 October 2021) by focusing on understanding the m6A methylation status of RNA transcripts at the nucleotide level. This collaboration will provide critical mechanistic data on the effects of FTO inhibition by Zantrene in various cancer types.

“Zantrene’s potency as an FTO inhibitor provides an exciting new opportunity to target cancer by altering its RNA metabolism. I look forward to working with Race to develop a companion diagnostic for the drug’s precision usage in clinical oncology”.

Professor Murray Cairns

The work is expected to support current and future clinical trials of Zantrene and provide the scientific basis for developing a clinically validated and Race-proprietary genetic companion diagnostic test for the targeted use of Zantrene in cancer treatment.

This preclinical research program is to start immediately with results to be reported over the coming 12 months.

1. Prasad, V., Fojo, T. & Brada, M. Precision oncology: origins, optimism, and potential. Lancet Oncol 17, e81–e86 (2016).

2. Valla, V. et al. Companion Diagnostics: State of the Art and New Regulations. Biomark Insights 16, (2021).

About Professor Murray Cairns

Professor Cairns is an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow, and Brawn Senior Fellow at the University of Newcastle’s College of Health, Medicine and Wellbeing. He heads the Precision Medicine Laboratory in the school of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy, which comprises a team of post-doctoral fellows, research assistants, bioinformaticians and research higher degree students. Professor Cairns has leveraged expertise in bioinformatics and high-throughput sequencing to establish an internationally recognised laboratory specialising in complex trait genomics. He is a leader in genetically informed precision medicine and is developing transformative approaches to address the problem of heterogeneity in the treatment of complex disorders.

Professor Cairns has attracted more than $14 million in funding to support his research programs, which have led to publications in the highest-ranking journals in the field, including Nature, Science, Cell, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Genetics, Nature Reviews Genetics, Nature Neuroscience and Molecular Psychiatry. Collectively, these publications have received more than 14,000 citations. His high-impact collaborative studies highlight an international reputation for research in complex disease genomics, posttranscriptional gene regulation, systems biology, and precision medicine.