A novel therapy studied at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) Cancer Center has led to a clinical trial for the treatment of glioblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer, yet the most common primary brain tumor in adults.
Despite decades of research globally, only incremental gains have been made to extend or enhance quality of life for patients with glioblastoma. Treatment options are limited and typically include a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Now, a new clinical study open at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin will evaluate an alternative treatment that is administered orally.

The treatment evolved from years of research led by Christopher Chitambar, MD, and his lab to study iron-dependent processes in cancer biology and the mechanisms by which gallium compounds target iron metabolism and block malignant cell growth. In preclinical studies, Drs. Chitambar and Kathleen Schmainda, PhD, discovered that gallium maltolate (GaM) significantly slowed the growth, and reduced the size, of glioblastoma.

GaM, originally developed by Harvard and Stanford educated scientist Lawrence R. Bernstein, PhD, is an orally available form of the metal gallium, which, in the body, shares many chemical properties with the highly oxidized form of iron, called Fe(III). Numerous studies examining the relationship between iron and cancer show that increased levels of iron in the body can be associated with increased cancer risk and severity, because cancer cells depend on iron to multiply and spread. Because of gallium’s similarity to Fe(III), it enters cancer cells instead of iron, preventing their multiplication.

“The discovery that GaM has anticancer activity against glioblastoma in pre-clinical studies is extremely exciting; it opens the door for developing it as a drug for treatment of glioblastoma in patients,” says Christopher Chitambar, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Biophysics, Division of Hematology and Oncology at MCW. “The anticancer mechanism of GaM applies to other solid tumors as well,” he adds.

Jennifer Connelly, MD, Associate Professor of Neurology at MCW, is Principal Investigator (PI) of the clinical trial with Dr. Chitambar serving as co-PI and Chair. Both are long-standing collaborators with Kathleen Schmainda, PhD, a co-founder of Imaging Biometrics, LLC, and a recognized leader in brain tumor imaging. Dr. Bernstein is participating as a co-investigator.

The trial is being sponsored by Imaging Biometrics with supporting grants from the Musella Brain Tumor Foundation and the MCW Cancer Center. Based in Elm Grove, WI, Imaging Biometrics is a wholly owned subsidiary of IQ-AI Ltd.
With over a decade of experience in quantitative brain tumor imaging analysis, including analysis for several national multi-center trials, Imaging Biometrics will provide image analysis solutions for evaluating the response to GaM. “We are working with an excellent team of scientists and clinicians, and everyone is eager to move this study forward,” says Michael Schmainda , CEO of Imaging Biometrics.

The trial, being conducted at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, is currently accepting participants and has an anticipated completion date of December 2025.

Read the full press release here