Through a collaboration between researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, and the National Cancer Institute, researchers have reported that a tumor-targeting compound called PU-H71 can reveal with great accuracy the set of altered pathways that contribute to malignancy, thus allowing physicians to “fish-out” entire networks of abnormal proteins in tumor cells.
One major obstacle in the fight against cancer is that anticancer drugs often affect normal cells in addition to tumor cells, resulting in significant side effects. Yet research into development of less harmful treatments geared toward the targeting of specific cancer-causing mechanisms is hampered by lack of knowledge of the molecular pathways that drive cancers in individual patients.
“A major goal of cancer research is to replace chemotherapy with drugs that correct specific molecular pathways disrupted by cancer,” said Weill Cornell’s Dr. Ari Melnick, one of the study’s lead investigator. The research was published in Nature Chemical Biology.
The researchers have uncovered that PU-H71 can reveal, with great accuracy, the set of altered pathways contributing to malignancy, thus allowing physicians to “fish-out” entire networks of abnormal proteins in tumor cells. PU-H71 binds to these abnormal protein complexes which are part of protein networks supporting cancer cell growth, division and survival. This knowledge could lead to more targeted, effective and individualized therapies for the personalized treatment of cancer – a disease in which no two tumors are alike – while producing fewer side effects and ultimately sparing patients from undergoing chemotherapy.
Based on these findings Dr. Melnick and colleagues have received a multi-investigator collaborative grant from the National Cancer Institute in support of clinical trials for the treatment of cancer. Currently, patients are being recruited for the first clinical trial to test the safety of PU-H71 as a drug used for the treatment of a variety of tumors. Subsequent trials will include patients with cancers such as breast, lymphomas, and chemotherapy-resistant leukemia.