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Can a New Pill Kill Cancer Tumors?

City-Of-Hope

The City of Hope-developed small molecule AOH1996 targets a cancerous variant of the protein PCNA. In its mutated form, PCNA is critical in DNA replication and repair of all expanding tumors. Here we see untreated cancer cells (left) and cancer cells treated with AOH1996 (right) undergoing programmed cell death (violet). (Photo credit: City of Hope)

A new pill could be the miracle cure for cancer that the world has been waiting for. Researchers at City of Hope, one of the largest cancer research and treatment organizations in the United States, say they may very well have succeeded in developing such a pill.

So far, the new pill has worked in treating animals with cancer by breaking down the proteins in cancer tumors. The treatment selectively disrupts DNA replication and repair in cancer cells, leaving healthy cells unaffected, the new study from City of Hope reports.

Most targeted therapies focus on a single pathway, which enables wily cancer to mutate and eventually become resistant, said 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. However, the cancer-killing pill Malkas has been developing over the past two decades, AOH1996, targets a cancerous variant of PCNA, a protein that in its mutated form is critical in DNA replication and repair of all expanding tumors.

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The scientists said that AOH1996 has been effective in preclinical research treating cells derived from breast, prostate, brain, ovarian, cervical, skin and lung cancers and is exclusively licensed by City of Hope to RLL, LLC, a biotechnology company that Malkas co-founded and holds financial interest in.

“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. 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,” said Malkas, senior author of the new study published in Cell Chemical Biology today. “Results have been promising. AOH1996 can suppress tumor growth as a monotherapy or combination treatment in cell and animal models without resulting in toxicity. The investigational chemotherapeutic is currently in a Phase 1 clinical trial in humans at City of Hope.”

Founded in 1913, City of Hope has grown into one of the largest cancer research and treatment organizations in the U.S. and one of the leading research centers for diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses. City of Hope research has been the basis for numerous breakthrough cancer medicines, as well as human synthetic insulin and monoclonal antibodies.

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