Two new classes of anti-cancer compounds discovered by scientists at USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute show promise for the treatment or prevention of cancer, researchers told scientists convened for the recent annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Atlanta.
“Early findings indicate that we are on the right track for developing new anti-cancer drugs that safely and effectively inhibit key oncogenic targets, which are often said to be ‘undruggable,’” said Gary A. Piazza, Ph.D., professor of oncologic sciences and pharmacology and leader of MCI’s Drug Discovery Research Center.
The term “undruggable” describes cancer drivers that are difficult to target with drugs because of their protein structures. Improving the understanding of these oncoproteins was one of 10 recommendations outlined in a 2016 Blue Ribbon Panel Report as part of former Vice President Joe Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative.
Presenting the studies at AACR were Adam B. Keeton, Ph.D., and Bing Zhu, Ph.D., scientists at MCI. The AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional association of cancer researchers.
The experimental anti-cancer drug described by Keeton inhibits the RAS oncoprotein, which makes multiple types of cancer cells grow and metastasize. Although the pharmaceutical industry has attempted for years to develop anti-RAS strategies, scientists have been largely unsuccessful in part because of RAS’s protein structure, Piazza said.
The compound described by Zhu inhibits the beta-catenin oncoprotein and shows exceptional promise for the treatment of lung cancer, Piazza said.
In addition to the oral presentations, three research posters described the development of the drug candidates for colon, pancreatic and ovarian cancers at the annual meeting. The posters were presented by MCI scientists Antonio Ward, Ph.D., Tyler Mattox, Ph.D., and Luciana Madeira da Silva, Ph.D.