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OU Health starts historic clinical trial for cancer drug made in Oklahoma

Posted at 2:51 PM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 18:14:30-04

OKLAHOMA CITY — OU Health announced Wednesday that its Stephenson Cancer Center is launching a historic trial for a cancer drug, OK-1, developed in Oklahoma.

The drug, developed without the support of pharmaceutical companies by researcher Dr. Doris Benbrook, is being tested on humans in a Phase 1 clinical trial. OU Health says Benbrook began work on the compound more than 25 years ago.

The drug is initially being given to women with advanced-stage ovarian, endometrial and cervical cancer.

“It is very exciting to reach the point where we can test OK-1 in a clinical trial,” said Benbrook, a professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the OU College of Medicine. “This drug is not available anywhere else in the world right now. We believe it has tremendous potential for treating cancer without causing toxic side effects.”

OU Health says OK-1 is derived from the natural compound vitamin A.

"The human body uses vitamin A to make retinoic acid, a nutrient that supports healthy functioning," they said in Wednesday's announcement. "Some forms of retinoic acid, as well as synthetic versions called retinoids, have been used to treat cancers such as leukemia. However, both are highly toxic, Benbrook said, and patients often become resistant to their effectiveness. Her aim was to create a better version of the drug that is able to kill cancer cells but is less toxic to normal cells."

Phase 1 clinical trials help to determine the highest dose of a new drug that can be given safely without causing severe side effects. OK-1 has been tested extensively in the laboratory and in animal research models, but the true effect can’t be known until it is given to humans. Preclinical studies of the drug have proved that it is effective without causing severe side effects or birth defects.

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