Cardiff University working on novel treatments for breast cancer spread

Researchers at Cardiff University are developing an experimental new breast cancer drug that reverses the spread of malignant cells. Dr Richard Clarkson, of the Cardiff University School of Biosciences and the University’s European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute, led the research. Other key contributors from the University included Dr Andrew Brancale and Dr Andrew Westwell from the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Through recent research, a previously unknown role was discovered for Bcl3, a potentially cancer-causing gene. It was discovered that through suppression of this gene, the spread of cancer could be reduced by up to 80% in the participant.

“Our next goal,” stated Dr Clarkson, “was to then find a way to suppress Bcl3 pharmacologically. Despite great improvements in therapy of early stage breast cancer, the current therapeutic options for patients with late stage metastatic disease are limited.”

This next stage has been achieved through computer modelling. Through a virtual model of the Bcl3 gene, the team were able to identify a pocket on the surface that is essential for its function. Through further virtual testing, a potential drug was identified that could inhibit the function of Bcl3.

Moving from virtual to physical, the compound has been trialled on mice. The results of such trials were entirely positive, with the produced drug able to completely inhibit the development of further metastatic tumours in the mice.

Though the drug is a long way from being ready for human use, the progress being made in this study is both significant and rapid. The project has received funding from the Tiziana Pharmaceuticals company, and the team are working on moving the drug into the clinical trials stage.

The ultimate aim is to develop a therapeutic agent that is capable of blocking metastatic tumour development in breast cancer. This is particularly important as the majority of deaths from cancers such as breast cancer are from progressive spread of the cancer to vital organs. Any pharmaceutical potential that can prevent or reverse this spread is a truly vital development.

 David Mason

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