May 26 2008 Posted: 00:00 IST
An extensive research project by a team of European scientists could help develop methods of treating cancers with less toxicity than drugs currently in clinical use. The research, just published as the cover story in the scientific journal Nature Chemical Biology, was led by Professor Corrado Santocanale in Italy at Nerviano Medical Sciences-Oncology. Professor Santocanale is now based in Ireland with the National Centre for Biomedical Engineering (NCBES) at NUI Galway as Chair of Molecular Medicine. The research project was aimed at identifying protein kinase inhibitors for development into new anticancer drugs. The finding showed that a small-molecule inhibitor of Cdc7 kinase prevents DNA synthesis with a novel molecular mechanism and has anti-tumour activity. According to Professor Santocanale, "The search for new therapeutic strategies for the treatment of a wide range of cancers is a key field of investigation. In this work we demonstrate for the first time the pharmacological inhibition of the Cdc7 kinase (a protein that acts as a switch to initiate DNA replication) kills tumours cells including those that have become resistant to some of the most common anticancer drugs. He continued, "Importantly we found that the treatment with a small molecule Cdc7 inhibitor lead to tumour growth inhibition in animal models. Clinical studies investigating this novel generation of drugs for the treatment of human cancers will be soon initiated and the expectation is that they will offer a novel therapeutic option to cancer patients." Professor Santocanale is currently establishing core research related to new drug targets for cancer therapy. Santocanale also aims to implement a translational research programme linking come of the basic research of the NCBES and the clinical research based in University College Hospital, Galway, with the goal of identifying potential targets for drug discovery. For Santocanale, "The most interesting part of the research process is to start with ideas originated from basic biological discoveries and see it develop into a drug that has the potential to improve the outcome of cancer patients". Professor Santocanale brings huge expertise to NUI Galway from his collaboration with Nerviano Medical Sciences, the largest pharmaceutical R&D facility in Italy, and one of the largest Oncology-focused, integrated discovery and development companies in Europe.