A new cancer fighting molecule developed by researchers at the University of Sydney has been licensed and has received $1.2 million of research funding from Lin BioScience.
Associate Professor Lenka Munoz from Sydney Medical School and Professor Michael Kassiou from the Faculty of Science have led research into a molecule they believe can inhibit a key protein that cancer cells need to multiply and grow.
The molecule targets the protein tubulin which is required to form microtubules, the main component of a cell’s cytoskeleton, which is responsible for the segregation of chromosomes in cell division.
Current drugs used to target tubulin have been already shown to effectively treat cancers such as breast, ovarian and non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. However they are large molecules that cannot cross the protective blood-brain barrier, making them ineffective in treating brain cancer.
The researchers have used experimental models of the most common and fatal primary brain tumour, glioblastoma, to test the potential of their small-molecule tubulin inhibitor.
Associate Professor Munoz said their research, so far, is encouraging.
“We treated patient-derived glioblastoma cells with the molecule and found that it effectively killed cells. These results are extremely important as there are currently no effective drugs with blood-brain barrier permeability to treat glioblastoma,” said Associate Professor Munoz.
Professor Kassiou said they are hoping the molecule leads to new treatments for brain tumours.
“Our research has passed the discovery stage and now our goal is to advance the lead molecule into clinical testing. This molecule provides an excellent basis for a drug-discovery program that may lead to new treatments for brain tumours,” said Professor Kassiou.
Associate Professor Munoz said the potential of this new therapeutic is great as it would also have the potential to treat brain metastases – tumours that spread to the brain from other parts of the body.
“Brain metastases most frequently originating from melanoma and cancer of the lung and breast are also in the need for better therapies,” said Associate Professor Munoz.
“While the primary cancer is treatable with current protocols, brain metastases are protected from the drugs due to the blood-brain barrier, resulting in approximately half of patients with brain metastases succumbing to cancer in their brain.”
In December 2016 the researchers received a $1.2m research funding grant for 12 months from Lin BioScience. The University also finalised a license agreement for the molecules with Lin BioScience.