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Pediatric Cancer Patients Will Soon Be Able to Test A Promising New Drug

Ann Thompson
From left: Bexion Scientist Tim Stephens and Researcher Kyle Buller test a new antibody. Bexion licensed the technology from Cincinnati Children's Hospital to develop the drug BXQ-350.

A promising new cancer drug developed at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and manufactured by Bexion Pharmaceuticals in Covington will soon be tested on children. BXQ-350 is already showing signs it's working on adults who have brain and gastrointestinal tumors.

Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
Bexion CEO Ray Takigiku says the adults in the Phase 1 trial tolerated all the doses without any serious adverse effects.

Bexion CEO Ray Takigiku says a clinical trial with children is scheduled to begin later in 2019. More than a decade ago, Takigiku saw the technology that formed the basis of the new drug at Cincinnati Children's. "We didn't understand what was happening at the time but it looked like there was some intriguing anti-cancer activity," he says.

Adults who have taken the drug seem to be doing well, including the first person to get it: Bob Rulli. Takigiku says the medicine seems to have wiped out his brain tumor. There was another suspicious area that developed while he was on the drug, but doctors say there weren't many cancer cells in that new area. Rulli has been taking BXQ-350 for two years.

How Does It Work?

BXQ-350 appears to only attack cancer cells. "This turns on a death pathway into cells," says Principal Investigator Dr. John Morris. "It kills cells. It's then enveloped into a fatty material called DOPS that targets it to specific cancer cells and the blood vessels that grow into cancer cells. It's almost like a cruise missile to kill cancer."

Kent McCord first heard about the drug months ago from his attorney, who said he should invest in it. His wife Ronda is now on it. The Independence, Ky., woman was shocked when she learned three years ago she had Stage 4 colon cancer. The otherwise healthy mother of four wanted to be around for her family.

Chemotherapy hasn’t really worked. She got so sick the doctor suggested cutting back on the chemo, and that’s when the cancer spread more. In February, she started taking BXQ-350 as part of a UC clinical trial.  Her husband says this is the best she's looked in three years.

Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
From left: Patient Ronda McCord, her husband Kent and Principal Investigator Dr. John Morris.

"I'm an optimist by nature and it's going to work and everything's going to be good," he says.

They are planning a trip to Florida this spring.