Cancer is a group of diseases characterised by the uncontrolled growth of cells with abnormal functions which have acquired invasive properties and may spread throughout the body. Cancer typically arises when the immune system fails to recognise and eliminate such abnormal cells. The mechanisms which lead to the disease are complex and vary by the type of cancer.
Individual cancer cells may detach from the primary tumour, spread to other parts of the body and grow into new, distant tumours in a process referred to as metastasis. Most deaths from solid tumours are not caused by the growth of the primary tumour, but result from its metastasis.
Cancer afflicts millions of people worldwide and is currently one of the leading causes of mortality in industrialised countries. Despite a general movement towards healthier lifestyles, improved diagnosis and noteworthy success in the treatment of certain types of cancer, the incidence of the disease is expected to remain one of the leading causes of death, primarily due to the aging of the population and environmental changes.(back to top)
Traditional treatments for solid tumours primarily include surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, used either individually or in combination. This is often referred to as the “seek and destroy” approach. Although generally effective in decelerating the progression of the disease and prolonging cancer patients’ lives, traditional cancer therapies have significant limitations both in terms of efficacy and safety. Surgical removal of solid tumours generally cannot ensure the eradication of all malignant cells, especially when the cancer has metastasised. Radiation therapy often results in severe side effects and has only limited utility in treating widespread metastases. Chemotherapy often provides only temporary relief from most types of solid tumours, and the disease frequently reappears or resumes its progression within months or years after therapy. Moreover, subsequent chemotherapeutic treatment can become less effective as the patients’ tumour cells often develop resistance to the drug regimen over time. In addition, since chemotherapeutic drugs are not sufficiently specific to cancer cells, their administration cannot avoid affecting normal cells, which often results in side effects such as nausea, vomiting and hair loss as well as life-threatening side effects such as liver, cardiac, bone marrow and blood cell toxicities. Such side effects may necessitate dose reduction, which ultimately limits the effectiveness of treatment.(back to top)
In recent years there has been a paradigm shift in cancer therapy driven by scientists, oncologists and the pharmaceutical industry. The traditional “seek and destroy” approach is being replaced by or combined with new non-cytotoxic therapies designed to “target and control” the disease.
Therefore, novel cancer therapies are increasingly aimed at targeting tumour cells directly to block biological functions of cancer cells which enable them to invade surrounding tissue and metastasise. Therapeutic agents which more specifically attach to the tumour cell to block or destroy it without affecting other cells allow treatment with less severe side effects and/or chronic application in order to control the disease while providing a good quality of life. In addition, based on the scientific findings that cancer cells employ various mechanisms to grow and spread in the body, cancer therapies have been continuously moving toward a combination of several therapeutic approaches acting at multiple points of primary tumour growth and the metastatic process.(back to top)
Focused on oncology, the Company’s portfolio includes diagnostic and therapeutic product candidates for the specific detection and targeted treatment of various types of cancer based on antibodies and small molecules. Our aim is out-licensing these clinical projects. The Wilex subsidiary Heidelberg Pharma GmbH in Ladenburg, Germany, offers preclinical contract research services and an antibody drug conjugate (ADC) technology platform. (back to top)