Interview with Dr Mohamed Ismail Nounou

Posted Wed, Jan, 20,2016

This author interview is by Dr Mohamed Ismail Nounou, of Alexandria University. Dr Nounou's full paper, Breast Cancer: Conventional Diagnosis & Treatment Modalities and Recent Patents and Technologies, is available for download in Breast Cancer: Basic and Clinical Research.

Please summarise for readers the content of your article.

Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer among women worldwide. However, increased survival is due to the dramatic advances in the screening methods, early diagnosis and breakthroughs in treatments. Patents and research papers investigating diagnosis and treatment strategies for breast cancer using novel technologies have been surveyed for the past 15 years in our article. This review provides an overview of breast cancer, conventional therapy, novel technologies in management of breast cancer, and rational approaches for targeting breast cancer.

How did you come to be involved in your area of study?

I have been deeply involved with breast cancer and its secondary metastases to brain since 2012 at Texas Tech. University. We, as a research team, worked with Bioasis Inc. and Nektar therapeutics for targeting and treating brain metastases of breast cancer. With both companies, we were responsible for the in-vivo and clinical studies of two new anticancer drugs in their Phase II trials. We performed experiments utilizing both in-vitro and in-vivo models of the blood-brain barrier and cancer, complete pharmacokinetic modeling of tracer and drug penetration in normal brain, brain tumor and breast tumors, assist in the development of nanoparticle formulations, evaluate tissue distribution of drugs and maintain a functioning laboratory.

What was previously known about the topic of your article?

Over the course of the last decade, many acquisitions have taken place in this critical field of research in the pharmaceutical industry. For these reasons, emerging pharmaceutical and nanotechnology companies try to increase their patent portfolio to increase their commercial value for possible buyouts by big pharmaceutical firms. Such acquisitions show the importance of this area of research and, most importantly, highlight the global need for effective and safe pharmaceutical chemotherapeutic agents that have the potential to target tumors like breast cancer with minimal toxicity and side effects. Unfortunately, these factors affected the quality and value of patents registered currently for the management of breast cancer. Most of the reviewed patents were extremely broad within their scope, unclear and unorganized to avoid any specifications of the invention. This prevents researchers and scientists from reproducing the patents results and conclusions. This could also be attributed to the companies urge to gain maximum intellectual properties rights. Furthermore, multiple patents were found to be describing the same product exactly. Such flaws in the patents system need more strict regulations during patents filing to protect consumers as well as inventors. Moreover, surveying the published research papers and patents also revealed other major drawback in the methodology design, which is the lack of standardization.

How has your work in this area advanced understanding of the topic?

Working with two pharmaceutical companies in Canada (BiOasis, Inc.) and the United States of America (Nektar Therapeutics) aided in understanding the field of breast cancer therapeutics and its metastases. Moreover, getting engaged in the AACR workshops and conferences over the past four years aided in broadening our understanding of this area or research and enriched our experience.

What do you regard as being the most important aspect of the results reported in the article?

A major limitation impeding the entry of novel nanomedicines for breast cancer into the market is that new concepts and innovative research ideas within academia are not being developed and exploited in collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry. An integrated ‘bench-to-clinic' approach, realised through a structural collaboration between industry and academia, would strongly stimulate the progression of tumor-targeted nanomedicines towards clinical application. A major focus should be the transformation of such novel technologies from bench to bedside. Developing novel complexes and sophisticated systems that could never reach the market due to high cost, inability of scaling up the system or instability of the final formulation is a major hurdle. Major process and formulation development concerns exists with respect to scale up process of complex nanoparticluate carriers. Consequently, many patents currently focus heavily on simple bioconjugate structures, which are easily synthesized with high yield, reduced cost and high stability profile of the final formulation. This could provide a practical direction for the development of novel management tools and therapeutics for breast cancer for researchers worldwide, paving the road to affordable, scalable, stable, efficient and safe management strategies.

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