Cancer breakthrough: new ‘cancer-killing pill’ found to kill tumours through ‘targeted chemotherapy’

Scientists said the protein is effective in treating a variety of cancers including breast and prostate, leaving healthy cells unaffected
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Scientists have developed a “cancer-killing pill” that kills solid tumours and has shown to be effective in preclinical research treating a variety of cancers including breast and prostate.

The protein was developed by a research team at the City of Hope, one of the largest cancer research and treatment organisations in the US.

Scientists have likened it to a “snowstorm that closes a key airline hub, shutting down all flights in and out only in planes carrying cancer cells” and have said results have been “promising”.

The AOH1996 molecule works by targeting a cancerous variant of PCNA, a protein critical to DNA replication and repair of enlarging tumours.

The protein has been developed over the last two decades and tested across 70 cancer lines.

The results, published in the journal Cell Chemical Biology, noted that AOH1996 selectively kills cancer cells by “disrupting the normal cell reproductive cycle” and was effective for breast, prostate, brain, ovarian, cervical, skin and lung cancers.

New ‘cancer-killing pill’ found to kill tumours in early research. (Photo: City-Of-Hope/PA Wire) New ‘cancer-killing pill’ found to kill tumours in early research. (Photo: City-Of-Hope/PA Wire)
New ‘cancer-killing pill’ found to kill tumours in early research. (Photo: City-Of-Hope/PA Wire)

The next stage of the study aims to further the clinical trial in humans and the first phase of these trials are now underway.

Linda Malkas, Ph.D., professor in City of Hope’s Department of Molecular Diagnostics and Experimental Therapeutics and the M.T. & B.A. Ahmadinia Professor in Molecular Oncology said: “Our cancer-killing pill is like a snowstorm that closes a key airline hub, shutting down all flights in and out only in planes carrying cancer cells.

"PCNA is like a major airline terminal hub containing multiple plane gates. Data suggests PCNA is uniquely altered in cancer cells, and this fact allowed us to design a drug that targeted only the form of PCNA in cancer cells”.

She said that "results have been promising” and the protein can “suppress tumour growth as a monotherapy or combination treatment in cell and animal models without resulting in toxicity.”

Professor Malkas added that the “investigational chemotherapeutic is currently in a Phase 1 clinical trial in humans at City of Hope."

Long Gu, Ph.D., lead author of the study and an associate research professor in the Department of Molecular Diagnostics and Experimental Therapeutics at Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, said that “No one has ever targeted PCNA as a therapeutic because it was viewed as ‘undruggable,’ but clearly City of Hope was able to develop an investigational medicine for a challenging protein target.”

He added: "We discovered that PCNA is one of the potential causes of increased nucleic acid replication errors in cancer cells. Now that we know the problem area and can inhibit it, we will dig deeper to understand the process to develop more personalised, targeted cancer medicines."

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