Investigators have unveiled a new class of drug that may treat cancer patients who can no longer respond to approved therapeutics. This particular drug may not become available to patients for a long time, however investigators believe if the clinical studies succeed, this drug may be the answer to treatment-resistant cancers.
For example, patients diagnosed with breast cancer can become resistant to existing hormone therapeutics, causing their diagnosis to be fatal. This encouraged researchers at the Imperial College of London to develop a drug to combat this cancer-resistance which was in collaboration with Emory University.
Lab-based tests that examined the early stages of the proposed drug, ICEC0942, was found to be successful in targeting resistant breast cancers with very few side-effects. ICEC0942 was then licensed to Carrick Therapeutics, which produced the drug into a molecule known as CT7001, later taken to clinical trial.
"Treatment-resistant tumors represent a significant threat for patients, as once a cancer stops responding to treatments there is increasingly little clinicians can do,” says Professor Charles Coombes, from the Department of Surgery & Cancer, "Drugs such as these could help to shift the balance back in favor of the patients, potentially providing a new option to patients for who existing treatments no longer work." Professor Tony Barrett, from the Department of Chemistry, also explains that "This work is the result of extensive collaboration between chemists, biologists and clinicians, which has helped to bring a new treatment from discovery to clinical testing in record time, streamlining the process."
CT7001 works to target an enzyme called CDK7. This enzyme is involved in administrating the lifecycle of cells, this includes cellular proliferation, DNA replication, and division. CDK7 is also part of cellular gene expression in the production of proteins, in other words, CDK7 can affect transcription. In treatment-resistant cancers, such as breast cancer, acute myeloid leukemia, and small-cell lung cancer, the targeting of CDK7 seemed a logical decision for investigators.
A wide range of lab tests have successfully shown that ICEC0942 suppresses tumor growth. These test also showed that ICEC0942 was more effective in combination of hormonal therapies. "Drug resistance continues to be a major challenge across many cancer types so it's vital that we explore new ways to tackle tumors that have stopped responding to standard therapies. We hope that this promising new class of drug will offer more options to patients who have few left available to them, and help more people survive their cancer,” says Iain Foukles, Cancer Research UK's executive of research and innovation.