Scientists have developed a groundbreaking cancer drug that kills all solid tumours, in an early study that they hope will one day move past the trial phase.
The cancer drug, which comes in pill form, targets a protein present in most diseases that helps tumours grow and multiply.
However, the other benefit is it leaves healthy cells unharmed, meaning it solely targets cancer cells and tumours.
Cancer-killing pill Malkas - codename AOH1996 - targets a cancerous variant of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), a protein that, in its mutated form, is critical in DNA replication and repair of all expanding tumours.
The development is significant because PCNA was previously thought to be “undruggable”.
The new therapy is the result of 20 years of research and development.
The team is continuing to investigate the mechanisms that make this cancer-stopping pill work in animal models, while a Phase 1 clinical trial test is also ongoing in humans.
“Most targeted therapies focus on a single pathway, which enables wily cancer to mutate and eventually become resistant,’ said team leader Dr Linda Malkas, a professor in City of Hope’s department of molecular diagnostics and experimental therapeutics.
“PCNA is like a major airline terminal hub containing multiple plane gates.
“Data suggests PCNA is uniquely altered in cancer cells, and this fact allowed us to design a drug that targeted only the form of PCNA in cancer cells.
“Our cancer-killing pill is like a snowstorm that closes a key airline hub, shutting down all flights in and out only in planes carrying cancer cells.”
The study, published in the journal Cell Chemical Biology, says it has been effective in preclinical research treating cells from breast, brain, prostate, cervical, ovarian, skin and lung cancers.
“Results have been promising,” said Malkas.
“AOH1996 can suppress tumour growth as a monotherapy or combination treatment in cell and animal models without resulting in toxicity.”
Study co-author associate research professor Dr Long Gu, said: “No one has ever targeted PCNA as a therapeutic because it was viewed as ‘undruggable,’ but clearly City of Hope was able to develop an investigational medicine for a challenging protein target.”