About renal (kidney) cancer

Huge unmet medical need

Cancer that has metastasized (spread) is very rarely cured and this is certainly true for renal cancer where more than half of the patients are deceased within one to two years. The treatments available today for metastasized renal cancer unfortunately only prolong the life with a few months on average and are often attached to severe side-effects.

Every year approximately 270 000 people are diagnosed with renal cancer worldwide. In Sweden, approximately 1 000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year.

Renal cancer is more common among men than women. 80 percent of the patients are between the age of 40 and 69 at diagnosis. The median age for diagnosis is 63 years, even if the disease sometimes (but seldom) can be found in patients younger than 40 years of age.

If the disease is discovered in time – that is before it has metastasized – it can be cured using surgery to remove the tumor including a part of, or the entire kidney.

In one third of the patients, the disease has already spread outside the kidney at time for diagnosis and for these patients the prognosis is, unfortunately, very poor with a median survival of less than one to two years dependent on prognostic factors.

Only 20 percent of patients with metastasized renal cancers are alive after 5 years.

Renal cancer can be divided into different types. The therapy with orellanine is expected to have effect on the most common types of renal cancer; clear-cell carcinoma and papillary renal carcinoma. Approximately 90 percent of the patients are affected by these two types.

About orellanine

A completely new approach and mechanism to treating renal (kidney) cancer

Orellanine is a highly kidney selective natural substance from certain mushrooms. The substance selectively affects and destroys a certain type of cells in the kidney, the tubular cells. The two most common types of renal cancer, clear cell renal cancer and papillary caner, originates from these cells.

The research findings show that the toxin from the mushrooms (Cortinarious orellanus and Cortinarius speciosissimus), sometimes accidentally ingested by humans, has the same very efficient killing effect on kidney cancer cells as on normal kidney cells. This has led to the conclusion that orellanine could be a very efficient renal cancer therapy. Moreover, a large number of humans have accidentally ingested mushrooms containing orellanine and do not display any other long-term consequences than those related to the kidney damage.

The therapeutic concept is to treat patients with metastasized renal cancer on dialysis with orellanine that acts as a cytotoxic substance actively and specifically pumped into the cancer cells. Since orellanine seems very selective for renal cancer cells and renal cells no severe side-effects are expected since the patients are already on dialysis.

Clinical data from patients who accidentally ingested orellanine-containing mushrooms and Oncorenas experimental toxicology data generated so far, shows only effects related to kidney damage. Orellanine will be given as an intravenous infusion to patients in dialysis with renal cancer that has spread. The goal is a long-term survival for the patients.

Oncorena is planning to take orellanine into clinical trials starting in 2020. The current plan is to conduct the clinical trials on clinics in Sweden enrolling patients with metastatic renal cancer in dialysis from a wide geographical area.

About the project

A unique approach to cancer treatment

The business idea is to utilize the knowledge generated by the innovators concerning a natural compound, orellanine, with highly selective toxic effects on kidney cancer- and tubular cells and develop a treatment for renal cancer. Read more about the innovators.

The background to the project is that professor Börje Haraldsson, a researcher and former kidney specialist physician at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden, was searching for a treatment for patients accidentally exposed to orellanine from mushrooms. Professor Haraldsson then discovered that orellanine kill kidney cancer cells as efficiently as it destroys normal kidney cells.

Founding and financing

The project was initially developed with support from Vinnova, Sweden’s public Innovation Agency, and GU Ventures, in Gothenburg, Sweden. Oncorena was incorporated in the Swedish development company Aqilion’ portfolio in 2013. Read more about Aqilion.

In September 2016, Oncorena announced that the company had secured capital to conduct clinical studies through a new share issue. The capital has been raised from the current largest owner Aqilion and through an investment by the venture capital firm HealthCap.

Read more about HealthCap.