FDA grants designations for OMRF brain tumor drug

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma’s Medical Research Foundation is one step closer to beating rare forms of brain cancers. 

The FDA granted them two rare disease designations for a brain tumor drug.

“To be able to see our work being translated to a clinic and be a benefit to both kids and adults, you know that is very rewarding for us,” said Dr. Rheal Towner, director of MRI facility at OMRF. 

Towner helped discover a drug called ‘OKN-007.’

It is currently in phase two of clinical trials for some adults, but the FDA designations will help fast-track approval so that it can be used to fight even more rare forms of fast-moving, deadly brain cancer. 

One of those is a rare pediatric brain cancer. 

The disease, called diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas, or DIPG, results in brain tumors that are nearly impossible to operate on. 

“The tumors, unfortunately, are at the base of the spinal cord. It’s an area that you don’t want to compromise with surgery because you could debilitate the child for the rest of their life,” said Dr. Towner. 

Towner says about 300 children worldwide battle this disease every year, including about 10 here in Oklahoma. 

“Our drug is very effective because of the fact that it actually affects a number of different types of tumor growth characteristics,” said Dr. Towner. 

One example was seen in Oklahoma native Mike Schuster.

He tried everything, including multiple surgeries, and couldn’t kick his form of brain cancer-Glioblastoma. 

After joining a clinical trial at Stephenson Cancer Center, ‘OKC-007’ saved his life.  

“They’ve tried everything else for them and nothing’s been effective and so we’re just really happy that this drug can benefit people like Mike Schuster,” said Dr. Towner. 

Towner says this is a step in the right direction because the more lives they can save early on, the better. 

“These particular children have no recourse right now for any type of treatment so if we can actually help make sure that these kids survive to adulthood and prosper with a normal life, then obviously that would be tremendous,” he said. 

For more information, visit OMRF’s website.

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