Top Navigation (EN)

Publications & Conference Presentations

Peer-Reviewed Publications

In Vivo Detection of Human TRPV6-Rich Tumors with Anti-Cancer Peptides Derived from Soricidin. Chris V. Bowen1, Drew DeBay1, H. Stephen Ewart2., Pamela Gallant2, Sean Gormley3, T. Toney Ilenchuk3, Umar Iqbal4, Tyler Lutes3, Marzia Martina4, Geoffrey Mealing4, Nadine Merkley2, Sandra Sperker2, Maria J. Moreno4, Christopher Rice3, Raymond T. Syvitski2, John M. Stewart3*  PLoS ONE 8(3): e58866. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058866

1. National Research Council of Canada, Institute for Biodiagnostics (Atlantic) - Neuroimaging Research Laboratory, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada,
2. National Research Council of Canada, Institute for Marine Biosciences, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada,
3. Soricimed Biopharma Inc., Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada,
4. National Research Council of Canada, Institute of Biological Sciences - Neurobiology Program, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


Soricidin is a 54-amino acid peptide found in the paralytic venom of the northern short-tailed shrew (Blarina brevicauda) and has been found to inhibit the transient receptor potential of vallinoid type 6 (TRPV6) calcium channels. We report that two shorter peptides, SOR-C13 and SOR-C27, derived from the C-terminus of soricidin, are high-affinity antagonists of human TRPV6 channels that are up-regulated in a number of cancers. Herein, we report molecular imaging methods that demonstrate the in vivo diagnostic potential of SOR-C13 and SOR-C27 to target tumor sites in mice bearing ovarian or prostate tumors. Our results suggest that these novel peptides may provide an avenue to deliver diagnostic and therapeutic reagents directly to TRPV6-rich tumors and, as such, have potential applications for a range of carcinomas including ovarian, breast, thyroid, prostate and colon, as well as certain leukemia’s and lymphomas.

Full article here.


Scientific Conference Presentations

Rodent Toxicology Studies for a Novel Anti-Cancer Agent, SOR-C13American College of Toxicology, Annual Meeting, Nov. 2013. Stewart, J1, Daniels, J2, Luksic, M2, Goodfellow, G2, Ilenchuk, T1. 1 Soricimed Biopharma Inc., Moncton, NB, Canada, 2 Intrinsik Health Sciences Inc., Mississauga, ON, Canada.
Soricidin is a proprietary, 54-mer peptide that was isolated from the sub-maxillary saliva gland of the Northern Short-tailed Shrew. SOR-C13 is a novel 13-mer synthetic peptide based on the first 13 amino acids of the C-terminus of soricidin. SOR-C13 inhibits the function of TRPV6 [the 6th member of the transient receptor potential (TRP) vanilloid cation channel group] and selectively induces apoptosis and inhibits cell proliferation in cell lines from ovarian and breast cancers as well as a number of other tumor types. Xenograft studies in mice have confirmed the in vivo effect of SOR-C13 as a single agent against ovarian and breast cancer tumors, and have also provided evidence of enhanced activity in combination with carboplatin/paclitaxel (ovarian cancer model) and paclitaxel (breast cancer model). As part of the program undertaken to support entry into clinical trials, a GLP-compliant 28-day IV toxicity study of SOR-C13 was conducted in Sprague-Dawley rats (n=10/sex/group). Animals were treated with SOR-C13 at dose levels of 0, 100, 200, or 400 mg/kg/day (0, 600, 1,200, or 2,400 mg/m2/day, respectively) for 28 consecutive days. SOR-C13 was generally well tolerated. At 400 mg/kg/day, there were adverse clinical signs of decreased activity, shallow respiration, blue or pale skin, paws, muzzle, and/or mucous membrane, with slight to moderate swelling of the paws. Overall, a NOAEL was established at 200 mg/kg/day (1,200 mg/m2/day) and the dose Severely Toxic to 10% of the animals (STD10) was >400 mg/kg/day (>2,400 mg/m2/day) which corresponded to a mean combined sex AUC of 8,005 µg•min/mL).

A link to the poster presentation can be found here.
A Peptide-Paclitaxel Conjugate outperforms Paclitaxel in breast and ovarian cancer models where TRPV6 is over-expressed. World Congress of Antibody Drug Conjugates, San Francisco, October 2013
N. Bartlett1, S. Gormley2, V. Lloyd1, T. Lutes2, S. Ramsaywack3, C. Rice2, J. M. Stewart2, S. A. Westcott3.
1. Department of Biology, Mount Allison University, Sackville NB, Canada 2. Soricimed Biopharma Inc., Sackville, NB, Inc. 3. Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Mount Allison University, Sackville, NB, Canada
The concept of Peptide-Drug Conjugates is similar to that behind Antibody Drug Conjugates. A peptide that strongly binds to a cancer-specific surface target is used to deliver a covalently linked drug directly to the tumour. Synthetic peptides may overcome some difficulties of antibodies for drug delivery (characterization, stability, regulatory, PK parameters). A series of synthetic peptides derived from the C-terminus of soricidin, the paralytic peptide in the saliva of the Northern Short-tailed shrew (Blarina brevicauda), bind strongly (EC50 ~ 14 - 60 nM) to transient receptor potential vanilloid family, six (TRPV6). This calcium channel is highly up regulated in many epithelial cancers (breast, ovarian, prostate, etc.) with little TRPV6, if any, in most healthy tissues. We conjugated Paclitaxel to one of our peptides and compared the effect of this PDC on cell cultures of breast (MCF-7, T 47D, MB-468) and ovarian (OVCAR-3, SKOV-3 and CaOV-3) cancers at 10 – 15 nM. The PDC outperforms Paclitaxel at decreasing cell viability by 30-50% in five of the six cell lines; OVCAR-3 responded to the same degree as the drug alone. Xenograft models with TRPV6-rich tumours in mice are presently underway. These observations support the idea that our proprietary C-peptides provide a drug delivery platform for TRPV6-rich tumours that is strictly chemically characterized, easily synthesized and highly adaptable. We expect this platform will accommodate a number of different drugs of interest.
A link to the poster can be found here.
Bio-Accumulation of a TRPV6 Binding Peptide SOR-C27 in an Ovarian Cancer Mouse Model by Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute, November 8, 2011
Drew DeBay, Chris Bowen, Stephen Ewart, Nadine Merkely, Ray Syvitski and Jack Stewart.
Abstract: From previous investigations, a fragment of a paralytic peptide from the Northern Short Tail shrew SOR-C27 was found to bind to the calcium ion channel TRPV6, which is highly over-expressed by breast, prostate and ovarian cancers. The fragment peptide was structurally characterized and the bio-accumulation assessed within a  SKOV-3 ovarian tumour xenograft mouse model as proof-of-concept for this peptide technology. US Patent #US2010/0329983 A1
Click here to view the poster board from this presentation.
Advances in TRPV6-based diagnostics in cancer. 9th Annual Ion Channel Retreat, Vancouver, BC, June 2011. Presented by J. M. Stewart, CSO, Soricimed Biopharma Inc.
Abstract:  In previous presentations before this workshop and elsewhere we have shown the application of a novel peptide platform derived from soricidin* to treatment of human tumours in animal models through the antagonist action on TRPV6.  One of our peptides is expected to enter Phase I cancer trials during 2011. Also, we provided early indications that there may be diagnostic applications of the peptides and of over-production of TRPV6 channels in breast, ovarian and prostate cancers to augment traditional antibody and nucleotide-based assessment of biopsies.
Now we describe the recent application of our TRPV6-binding peptides (the SOR-C-series) to detect and measure TRPV6-rich ovarian and prostate tumors with imaging technologies (fluorescent and MRI highlighted here).  The fluorescent tagging of tumors in a mouse model is rapid, showing a maximal signal at about 3 hrs and long lasting (at least 72 hours).  As a negative enhancer for MRI, nanoparticles of SPIO (superparamagnetic iron oxide) bearing a C-series peptide avidly binds to xenografted human ovarian tumors in a mouse model allowing both location and measurement of tumor volume.
Because of over-expression of TRPV6 in epithelial cancers and because cancer cells shed various microvesicular structures, we hypothesized that the TRPV6 signature of these cancers would be carried by body fluids.  We provide evidence to support this hypothesis and show it is possible to detect earliest stage cancers (Stage I and II) from a blood sample using a nucleotide-based measurement of cell-free, microvesicular TRPV6 mRNA.  The amount of circulating TRPV6 mRNA from cancer patients is significantly greater than found in healthy people and represents an easily accessible way to monitor this biomarker.  This over-abundance of TRPV6 mRNA in body fluids may provide an avenue to an early diagnostic.
*Soricidin is the paralytic peptide present in the saliva of the Northern Short-tailed shrew.
Conference Report:  Saranna Brugger, Marco Garate, Gina Papaianni, Maria Volnoukhin, Chris Zhan, Sikander Gill, Sophia Liang, and Dong Liang, The Ninth Annual Ion Channel Retreat, Vancouver, Canada, June 27–29, 2011. ASSAY and Drug Development Technologies, 9(6): 1-9.
The conference report can be read here.
A novel anti-cancer agent works through a targeted physiological mechanism involving the non-voltage gated calcium channel, TRPV6.  7th Annual Ion Channel Retreat, Vancouver, Canada, June 29 – July 1, 2009. Presented by J. M. Stewart, CSO, Soricimed Biopharma Inc.
Abstract: About 10 years ago it was noted that cancers arising from epithelia of prostate, breast and ovaries expressed large quantities of a non-voltage gated calcium channel now called TRPV6 (Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid family, number 6).  As well, it was noted that the severity of malignancies seemed to correlate with the level of TRPV6 expression, with healthy tissue expressing either no or very low levels of this channel.  During the last decade we have learned of the involvement of this calcium channel in cancer and how it appears to trigger a pro-survival pathway mediated by the NFAT transduction factor.  Also during the last decade it has been pointed out, repeatedly, that this ion channel could be a target for therapeutic intervention in cancers of these tissues.  Until now, only poor antagonists to TRPV6 have been reported. 
In the course of investigating the paralytic component of the saliva of a shrew common to Eastern North America, the Northern short-tailed shrew (Blarina brevicauda) we isolated a medium-sized peptide that is biologically bifunctional.  It causes paralysis through inhibition of sodium channels and also severely inhibits calcium currents through TRPV6.  It was the latter property that we were able to dissect from the parent peptide and use to test the hypothesis that TRPV6 was integral in these epithelial cancers.  We report here the discovery of two small peptides, their efficacy in inhibiting TRPV6 (IC50 ~ 100 to 150 nM) and their ability to initiate a shut down of the pro-survival pathway present in breast, ovarian and prostate cancers resulting from the increased TRPV6-mediated calcium influx.  The upshot of the specific inhibition of TRPV6 is induction of a cytological state, rather than a cytotoxic one (typical of small molecule therapy), resetting the cell and inducing apoptosis. Healthy cells, not having increased levels of TRPV6 are not significantly affected by the peptide treatment. The new peptides represent a novel anti-cancer agent working through a targeted physiological mechanism. [Note:  subsequent work indicates the IC50 values range between 10 nM and 50 nM.]
A novel peptide inhibitor of TRPV6 shows activity against ovarian cancer in vitro and in vivo.
1st International Congress on TRP Channels, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, 2009. TRP Channels from Sensory Signaling to Human Disease, J. M. Stewart, T. T. Ilenchuk, J. A. Blakely, T. W. D. Lutes, C. T. Rice, and K. D. M. Harris. Presented by J. M. Stewart, CSO, Soricimed Biopharma Inc.
Abstract: We report the first significant inhibitor of TRPV6 derived from a fragment of the paralytic salivary peptide produced by the Northern Short-tailed shrew, Blarina brevicauda.  In the course of investigating the paralytic component of the saliva of a shrew common to Eastern North America we isolated a medium-sized polypeptide (54 aa) responsible for the paralysis. We report here the discovery of two smaller derivative peptides, their efficacy in inhibiting TRPV6 (IC50 ~ 100 to 150 nM), their ability to initiate erasure of the pro-survival pathway present in ovarian cancer that results from the increased TRPV6-mediated calcium influx and their ability to induce apoptosis. Healthy cells, not having increased levels of TRPV6 are unaffected by the peptide treatment as corroborated by the non-toxic nature of the peptides.  Further we exploit the specific binding to TRPV6 by attaching fluorescent marker to the peptide: we can detect TRPV6-rich cells. The new peptides represent a novel anti-cancer agent working through a targeted physiological mechanism. [Note:  subsequent work indicates the IC50 values range between 10 nM and 50 nM.]
The poster can be accessed here.
Industry Presentations
T. T. Ilenchuk Virtual Outsourcing: A Case Study. Presented at the ‘Outsourcing in Clinical Trials Canada. Toronto, ON. 25-26 October, 2011
To read Toney's presentation click here.
General Presentations & Lectures
J. M. Stewart, Curiosity to Clinical Trials. Presented to the 3rd Annual Conference of the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation meeting 8-9 Nov., 2011, Moncton, NB.
J. M. Stewart, From Curiosity to Clinical Trials v2.0. Presentation to general audience, sponsored by the Heath Outreach group of Mount Allison University. Sackville, NB, 2 Nov., 2011.
J. M. Stewart, From Curiosity to Clinical Trials, Lecture presented to senior research students, Mount Allison University, May, 2011.
J.M. Stewart, Over-expression of the calcium ion channel TRPV6 is the focus for a targeted management of ovarian cancer: early detection and treatment.  Invited presentation to ‘Maritech 2010’, Moncton, June, 2010 (annual conference of Medical Laboratory Technologists). Moncton, NB, Canada.
J.M. Stewart and K. Keirstead. From the Academy to the Street: Barriers to Overcome. Commercialization workshop organized by BioAtlantech, March, 2010, Fredericton, NB, Canada
J. M. Stewart, The discovery of a novel anti-cancer agent that works through a physiological mechanism targeted at the non-voltage gated calcium channel, TRPV6.  Keynote speaker, Memorial University, Graduate Student Conference, Faculty of Medicine, 6 June, 2009. St. John’s, NFLD, Canada.
JM Stewart A Novel anti-cancer agent works through the calcium channel, TRPV6. Lecture presented to BC Cancer Agency staff, 3 July, 2009, Paetzold Health Education Centre, Vancouver General Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada