Stopping Cancer Cells from Repairing their Own DNA Post Treatment: University of Alberta New Drug Shows Potential

Nov 23, 2019 | Cancer, DNA Repair, ERCC1-XPF, Oncology, University of Alberta

University of Alberta researchers has discovered a new class of drug that could contribute to the war against cancer. Based on initial study results, it appears that the drug can halt cancerous cells from repairing themselves after they have been zapped with radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

The study results titled “Targeting DNA Repair in Tumor Cells via Inhibition of ERCC1-XPF” was published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry (doi:10.1021/acs.jmedchem.9b00326) recently.

How does it Work?

According to a recent press release by the University of Alberta, the drug stops cancer cells from repairing their DNA, which becomes damaged during radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The newly discovered compound inhibits the interaction of a protein pair called ERCC1-XPF that is responsible for repairing DNA with cancer cells.

Who led the Charge?

Fred West, a professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Alberta, also co-directs the Cancer Research Institute of Northern Alberta—known as CRINA. West recently commented for the press, “For patients with resistant cancer, this drug could rescue them by rendering their cancer once again treatable.” West continued, “For patients who have not developed resistance, it could permit the use of lower, safer doses of chemotherapy, which would greatly reduce the serious side effects that accompany many types of chemotherapy treatment.”

Initial Focus on Colon and Lung Cancers

The team initially centers its’ attention on colorectal cancer and lung cancer—two widespread and deadly forms of the disease. Ultimately they seek broader applicability.

Filing Provisional Patent & Preclinical Agenda with an Eye toward Commercialization

The research team filed for a provisional patent and will target preclinical studies in 2020. The team will seek to evaluate the compound on model organisms in a quest to verify and validate the established behavior thus far seen in cells: it is a leap to go to a living organism representing far greater complexity reported West. If the compound works as hoped in existing organism models, then West says the University of Alberta will seek to partner with a significant biopharma sponsor to conduct first-in-human clinical trials.

Funding & Interests

This outcome of this study represents the culmination of a multi-year research endeavor funded initially by a $2.9 million grant from the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

Research Team

The team includes experts from the Cancer Research Institute of Northern Alberta (CRINA), the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences of the University of Alberta.

Team Members include:

Lead Research/Investigator

Fred West, Science Professor, Chemistry

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