Myeloma drug trials to begin
13 Oct 2014
Researchers at Imperial College London (ICL) have developed a cancer drug which they plan to trial in myeloma patients next year.
Myeloma, which is often referred to as ’multiple myeloma’ as it can affect a number of different areas within the body, is an incurable form of cancer that arises from plasma cells found in bone marrow.
It is a ’relapsing-remitting’ cancer, meaning there are periods when it causes symptoms, followed by periods of remission where treatment is not required.
Currently there are a number of anti-myeloma drugs under development, and researchers at ICL have today reported that a new drug, known as DTP3, has been effective in killing myeloma cells in laboratory tests in human cells and mice, without causing any toxic side effects.
“Lab studies suggest that DTP3 could have therapeutic benefits for patients with multiple myeloma
ICL professor Guido Franzoso
According to researchers, DTP3 works by stopping a key process that allows cancer cells to multiply.
Guido Franzoso, from the Department of Medicine at ICL, who led the research, said: “Lab studies suggest that DTP3 could have therapeutic benefits for patients with multiple myeloma and potentially several other types of cancer, but we will need to confirm this in our clinical trials, the first of which will start next year.”
The researchers said that, during the 1990s, a protein called nuclear factor kappa B (NFB) was discovered to be overactive in many types of cancer, and was responsible for switching off the normal cellular mechanisms that naturally lead to cell death.
Both the pharmaceuticals industry and research scientists have attempted to develop NFB inhibitors, but have had little success as such compounds block several important processes controlled by NFB in healthy cells, causing serious toxic side effects, the researchers said.
Armed with this knowledge, the ICL team pursued a different approach, looking for target genes downstream of NFB that might be responsible for its role in cancer specifically.
By studying cells from multiple myeloma patients, the ICL team identified a protein complex, named GADD45?/MKK7, which appeared to play a critical role in allowing the cancer cells to survive.
“We had known for many years that NFB is very important for cancer cells, but because it is also needed by healthy cells, we did not know how to block it specifically,” Franzoso said.
“The discovery that blocking the GADD45?/MKK7 segment of the NFB pathway with our DTP3 peptide therapeutic selectively kills myeloma cells could offer a completely new approach to treating patients with certain cancers, such as multiple myeloma.”
A full account of the study can be found in the journal Cancer Cell.