Pre-clinical Research Proves Promising for the Treatment of Blood Cancer

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Pre-clinical research has generated some very promising findings about a prototype drug for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The findings, from work carried out by scientists at NUI Galway, are published in this month’s Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

The research introduced a molecule, or prototype drug, to blood samples from patients with the type of blood cancer known as CLL. The findings indicated that the prototype drug kills leukemia cells circulating in the blood, including cells with features often associated with chemotherapy resistance. Additionally, it was found that the molecule also has the potential to target dividing leukemia cells within lymph nodes. With current standard treatment, these cells can act as a reservoir of resistant cells, which can then give rise to relapse.

For the last two and half years, NUI Galway’s Professor Corrado Santocanale, along with Professor Michael O’Dwyer and Professor Afshin Samali, among others, have been researching this molecule ‘PHA-767491’ for treating CLL.

According to Professor Corrado Santocanale, who works in NUI Galway’s National Centre for Biomedical Engineering (NCBES) and in the Centre for Chromosome Biology (CCB): “Generally, the prognosis for patients diagnosed with CLL, one of the commonest types of blood cancer, is not as positive as we would like. However these laboratory results provide some hope for the future, especially as related trials with patients are already underway”.

The molecule is the parent compound of a drug now being tested in a phase one clinical trial led by Professor Michael O’Dwyer at the HRB Clinical Research Facility at NUI Galway. The success of the laboratory research was an important factor in developing the clinical trial.

Frank Giles, Professor of Cancer Therapeutics and Director of the HRB Clinical Research Facility at NUI Galway, commented: “Enormous progress in anti-cancer therapy is being made as pre-clinical identification of an optimal target, the development of small molecule that modulate the target, and the conduct of early phase human studies, are becoming a seamless process. The conduct of these early studies is a top priority for our NUI Galway CRF and demonstrates Ireland’s increasing strength in this critical biomedical sector.”

Pre-clinical cancer biology research at NUI Galway encompasses multidisciplinary research clusters who are working to understand the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible for the initiation and progression of cancer, and to develop new and better cancer therapies. The University also has a strong translational and clinical research programme with the objective of translating research discoveries into improved patient care. 


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