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Making a new generation of ‘guided-missile’ cancer drugs work
6 January 2020, 1:15 PM

A class of treatments known as antibody-drug conjugates (ADC) combine cancer-tracking proteins with powerful cell toxins. The therapies are getting a fresh start as dozens of drugmakers test a record number of new compounds in people.

Nearly 20 years after the first ADC, Pfizer’s Mylotarg, was approved, developers say they are now getting a handle on the technology that was long seen as an elegant concept, but one that presented many clinical challenges.

* How do ADCs work?

Antibodies such as Roche’s top-selling Herceptin have been a mainstay of modern medicine because these immune proteins can be engineered to bind to cancer cells, where they interfere with growth.

With ADCs, drugmakers go a step further and attach cytotoxic molecules to antibodies to destroy the cancer cells outright. Roche’s Kadcyla combines Herceptin with the agent mertansine(DM1).

The antibodies’ role in that combination has been described as that of a Trojan horse, carrying the cytotoxic agent inside the tumour, where it can be deployed.

* What progress has been made in ADC research?

So-called “linker” molecules that connect the cell-killing payload to the antibodies have been refined to release the toxins only when the drug is absorbed by a cancer cell.

Some early ADCs fell apart in the bloodstream, leading to failure or unacceptable damage to healthy tissues.

Newer ADCs, such as AstraZeneca’s and Daiichi Sankyo’s Enhertu, have also been designed to kill adjacent tumour cells even after the initially targeted cell has disintegrated.

* How do ADCs stack up against other novel cancer therapy approaches?

The so-called CAR-T cell approach, in which patients’ own immune system cells are removed from the body and re-engineered to recognise and attack cancer, has been a much bigger focus of pharmaceutical industry investment.

Hundreds of studies are underway from companies like Novartis and Gilead Sciences. Both drugmakers already have therapies on the market that are pegged as potential billion dollar products in annual sales.

But CAR-T cells, for now, are targeted at blood cancers, while ADCs have proven effective against solid tumours. Most CAR-T cells also must be custom made for each patient, requiring huge infrastructure investments, while ADCs can be centrally produced and shipped globally.

ADCs also face competition from another treatment approach called bispecific antibodies. Bispecifics are complex therapeutic proteins that can latch onto the body’s immune cells and connect them with cancer cells.

The number of bispecifics in the pipelines of drugmakers, including Roche, GlaxoSmithKline and Bristol-Myers Squibb, is roughly on par with ADCs, according to Beacon Targeted Therapies.

EFF calls for establishment of state owned bank for entrepreneurs
6 January 2020, 12:58 PM

The EFF has called on government to establish a state-owned bank that will prioritise investment in young African entrepreneurs, in honour of the late Richard Maponya.

In a statement, the party hailed Maponya as the African business legend and icon.

The party praised Maponya for establishing the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NAFCOC) in 1964, to look out for African business interest during the apartheid era. Maponya passed away this morning following a short illness at the age of 99.

Meanwhile, Congress of the People (COPE) says the passing of Dr Richard Maponya is a loss to the business sector. COPE says Maponya was a selfless businessman. COPE spokesperson, Dennis Bloem says he fought against unemployment and created hundreds of jobs in the country.

“We have lost a giant in the business field, not only in the business field but a giant in the liberation struggle of our country to free the oppressed. He was a man who has worked up until his last day on earth.”

SABC case to reverse irregular appointments resumes
6 January 2020, 12:02 PM

The SABC’s case to reverse irregular appointments in the corporation has resumed in the Labour Court. The public broadcaster wants the 28 appointments which it says violated company policy reversed but it has been challenged in court. The irregular appointments are part of former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s legacy. SABC spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo says the matter is scheduled to be concluded on Tuesday.

The SABC filed an application at the Labour court on the 20th of August 2019 following the recommendations of the reports of the Public Protector and the Parliamentary Ad Hoc Committee. This matter was heard before the court for the first time on December 11 and 12, 2019 and is scheduled to be concluded January 7, 2020.

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Cosatu calls on South Africans to emulate Maponya’s life
6 January 2020, 10:00 AM

Condolences are pouring in after the passing of businessman Richard Maponya. Maponya passed away this morning after a short illness at the age of 99.

Trade union Cosatu has called on all South Africans to copy his life and work hard to change their lives.

Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Phamla says Maponya triumphed during hard times and defied apartheid.

“At the time when young people are discouraged and seated at home and unemployed because of the difficult circumstances, we hope that they will take inspiration from him and realise that even in dark circumstances, in difficult situations you can triumph and succeed only if you work hard and you are dedicated because that’s what Ntate Maponya did.”

Meanwhile Former City of Joburg Mayor, Herman Mashaba says he is devastated by the passing of Maponya. Mashaba who is a businessman himself, says Maponya has contributed immensely to the person he is today. He says his passing is a great loss to the black community.

“We are going remember him for being a shining example to us when times were hard, when times were dark in our country. As black youth, it is possible to go into business against all odds. That is something that will live with some of us forever. We will always remember him for the role he has played indirectly because he was not aware of people like us as we were growing up, but we were watching him and did everything possible to follow on his footsteps.”

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South African business mogul Richard Maponya dies
6 January 2020, 8:10 AM

South African entrepreneur and property developer Richard Maponya has died at the age of 99 after a short illness.

Richard John Pelwana Maponya rose from the impoverished rural areas of Limpopo to become one of the most respected and respectable self-made businesspeople in South Africa. Despite the humiliation of apartheid and laws forbidding entrepreneurial spirit among black people, he proved a visionary with a dream that refused to die.

Maponya’s career highlights include being a trustee of The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and founder and first president of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce.

He started small grocery stores in Soweto in the early 1950s, which led to various businesses including a butchery, liquor stores and supermarket, car dealership and filling station. The most visible sign of his success is his 65,000m² Maponya Mall in Soweto which was opened in 2007.

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