Cancer Research Finds New Drug in Swedish Study
Researchers in a recent Swedish study found that a new drug can kill dormant cancer cells. These findings are pivotal in cancer research because dormant cancer cells are often “awakened” by cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
These treatments often cause the dormant cancer cells to immediately begin to divide and grow. The cancer has become dormant because it lacks the mitochondrial energy that it needs to keep growing – which chemotherapy and radiotherapy can provide.
VLX600 Molecule Causes ‘Mitochondrial Dysfunction’
The study observed how a molecule – called VLX600 – kills colon cancer cells, by inducing “mitochondrial dysfunction”. Mitochondrial dysfunction essentially causes the dormant cancer cells to die from a lack of energy. The key to using VLX600 is that the cancer cells are already in a dormant state from a lack of oxygen and nutrients.
Secondly, the researchers found that the VLX600 molecule also boosted the effectiveness of an already existing cancer drug – irinotecan.
The researchers said this about their cancer discovery: “Our findings suggest that tumor cells in metabolically compromised microenvironments have a limited ability to respond to decreased mitochondrial function, and suggest a strategy for targeting the quiescent populations of tumor cells for improved cancer treatment.”
A clinical study on VLX600 is projected to take place in 2014 in collaboration with U.S. researchers. This study was published in Nature Communications in February 2014.
Already Existing Drug Being ‘Repurposed’ to Fight Cancer
Researchers at Washington State University are studying a possible “cancer-fighting” drug (furamidine) that is already available in the marketplace to fight parasites.
One of the researchers – Dr. Gregory Poon – is a pharmaceutical scientist at Washington State University. Their findings were published in Nucleic Acids Research journal.
Furamidine Could Target Cancer & ‘Deadly’ Human Proteins
Dr. Poon points out that until this recent discovery with modified furamidine, there was no known drug with the capability to alter targeted human proteins. Previous drugs designed to target transcription factors (or human proteins) have failed. In the pharmaceutical world, transcription factors developed the reputation of being “undruggable”. This latest discovery may change that.
The New Challenge Ahead for Pharmaceutical Scientists
Dr. Poon says this: “The challenge now is to fine-tune this class of drugs to make them as specific as possible to other ETS-family transcription factors as well.”
What Dr. Poon is saying is that the furamidine class of drugs should be tweaked to fight various cancers and diseases, classified under “ETS-family” transcription factors.
One big advantage to using the drug furamidine in future studies is that there is already a lot of knowledge in past clinical studies on humans, which makes it much easier to get F.D.A. approval, and to understand the possible side effects on human health. This gives furamidine an edge over other cancer-fighting drugs that have not yet been through human clinical trials.
This study was financed by the National Institutes of Health at Georgia State University and the Washington State University College of Pharmacy.