Meet the Researcher: Dennis Brown, Kintara Therapeutics 

Cancer cells

At the American Association of Cancer Research’s Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, DDW’s Megan Thomas met with industry experts to learn more about their research and careers in the field of cancer research. Thomas speaks with Dennis Brown, Chief Scientific Officer at Kintara Therapeutics. You can also listen to these interviews on the DDW Podcast below.

MT: Where do you work, and can you tell us what you’re working on at the moment?  

DB: I’m a cancer researcher and I’ve been involved with Kintara Therapeutics from the beginning. My job is the Chief Scientific Officer and we’re a small company, so everyone who works in the company wears more than one hat. We’re in the area of small chemical cancer drug discovery and we’re involved with the identification of molecules, the screening in the laboratory, identifying the hits to leads, and then a whole series of development activities occurs in terms of preclinical models, formulation, design, and decisions on whether the drug is interesting in comparison to how patients are being treated today.  

We also keep on top of what else is going on in our industry at the time. For instance, if there’s something unique biologically, we surround ourselves with doctors who give us a good insight that this is worth pursuing. Then, we move forward with what are called Investigational New Drug enabling studies. Those are the beginning of additional manufacturing, scale of chemistry pharmacokinetics, pharmacology assays, development bioanalytical assays, and then moving forward toxicology work to start the initial clinical trials. It’s a long road and each of those events can veer off the road and into a ditch pretty quickly… We try to avoid that. 

We’ve been attending AACR 2023 every year for a number of years, which has been a progression of us moving from laboratory studies in tissue culture in vitro to see if we had something, to the animal studies and the pharmacology work, and now we’re reporting on very, very mature clinical trial data. This time, we had two posters on expanded access. This is a programme that all pharmaceutical companies have to have, where patients who don’t have a good approach for the next stage of treatment are allowed to reach out to sponsors who might have a drug under development that they could try on their patient. We’ve been working in glioblastoma (GBM), where there’s not a lot going on, and we’ve been working for a number of years clinically. With the publications of our other data, our Phase II work, the science has led to a lot of interest from doctors on behalf of their patients. 

MT: Where do you think the biggest opportunity is in your field in the next five to 10 years?  

DB: I used to say, “I’d like to come back and 50 years to see how this thing turned out”. I stopped saying that for some reason, I don’t know why. But I think we’re at another point where there are amazing tools – genomic sequencing, high throughput screening, amazing chemistry from all over the world, biologics (where they’re really tweaking a new generation), and a lot of biomarkers now so that they can more precisely identify the right patient for the right drug. That’s probably the most hopeful thing, where a patient won’t be treated with something that’s not going to benefit them. 

MT: What’s been the highlight of your career so far? 

DB: Hanging out with smart people.  

MT: If you could make everyone read one book, article or academic paper, what would it be and why? 

DB: The book by Dr Mukherjee on cancer – The Emperor of All Maladies. It gives the history of the disease and it’s pretty amazing. It’s stories, it’s not just science. It shows how mistakes and observations are made, as well as the serendipity involved. It is quite helpful to not only scientists but patients as well. In this sector, everything sounds very regimented, but there is a lot of serendipity in how things develop. 

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