Novel inhibitors could become new anticancer therapeutics

Cancer metastasis

University of Queensland (UQ) researchers have identified a novel drug target with the potential to overcome drug resistance and prevent tumour regrowth in cancer patients.

The newly identified molecule is not currently a target for treatment, opening the potential for drug development.

“Drug resistance is the single major cause of death in cancer patients,” said Associate Professor Helmut Schaider from UQ’s Frazer Institute. “For example, almost half of patients with lung cancer die from the disease due to tumour regrowth. Drug resistance affects all cancer types, with adverse outcomes for patients and the healthcare system.”

An international research effort is underway into how cancer patients develop resistance to drugs and to find suitable targets for intervention, but so far success had been limited.

“One of the mechanisms which leads to permanent cancer drug resistance is an adaptive process based on a chronic stress response,” Schaider said. “This process accounts for about 40% of cancer patients developing drug resistance. Our research has identified a molecule which is crucial for cancer cells to regain the ability to proliferate while under treatment. The next step is to develop drugs to target this molecule.”

Dr Schaider has partnered with the Queensland Emory Drug Discovery Initiative (QEDDI), a business unit of UQ’s commercialisation company UniQuest, to work on first-in-class small molecule inhibitors as novel anticancer therapeutics.

UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss said it was encouraging to see therapeutic options emerge from collaborative partnerships between UQ researchers and QEDDI. “We are utilising Dr Schaider’s expertise in cancer biology and QEDDI’s drug development capabilities to develop novel inhibitors that could become new medicines to treat patients with advanced solid tumours,” he said.

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