US researchers at City of Hope have found a new way to treat cancer via a targeted chemotherapy pill that can kill solid tumors, according to a recent study.
The results of this study were published in the peer-reviewed academic journal Cell chemical biology.
The drug in question, called AOH1996, works by targeting a specific cancer protein variant called a proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA).
This protein is essential for DNA to replicate and therefore for tumors to spread.
How does AOH1996 help treat cancer?
This is where AOH1996 differs from other targeted cancer therapies. Most others tend to focus only on a single path. However, that method can result in the cancer mutating and becoming more resistant to treatment.
“PCNA is like the terminal hub of a major airline that contains multiple gates. Data suggest that 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 blizzard that shuts down a central airline hub, closing all flights in and out only of planes carrying cancer cells,” City of Hope professor Linda Malkas said in a statement.
“Results have been promising. AOH1996 can suppress tumor growth as monotherapy or combination therapy in cell and animal models without resulting in toxicity. The experimental chemotherapeutic is currently in a phase 1 human clinical trial at City of Hope.”
In tests, AOH1996 was found to be useful in the treatment of breast, prostate, brain, ovarian, cervical, skin and lung cancers. It selectively kills cells by interfering with how those cells reproduce. This process is known as apoptosis, and it prevents cells with damaged DNA from spreading throughout the body.
More clinical trials are planned to help test this drug for future use.
“No one has ever targeted PCNA as a therapeutic because it was considered ‘incurable,’ but it was clear that City of Hope was able to develop an investigational drug for a challenging protein target,” said Long Gu, lead author of the study and an associate employee. research professor at the Department of Molecular Diagnostics and Experimental Therapeutics at the Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope.
“We discovered that PCNA is one of the potential causes of increased nucleic acid replication errors in cancer cells. Now that we know the problem area and can inhibit it, we want to dig deeper to understand the process of developing more personalized, targeted cancer medicine.”