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Experimental Breast Cancer Drug

28 January 2014

Researchers at the University are developing a novel compound known to reverse the spread of malignant breast cancer cells.

The vast majority of deaths from cancer result from its progressive spread to vital organs, known as metastasis. In breast cancer up to 12,000 patients a year develop this form of the disease, often several years after initial diagnosis of a breast lump.

In a recent series of studies researchers identified a previously unknown critical role for a potential cancer causing gene, Bcl3, in metastatic breast cancer.

Dr Clarkson, Senior lecturer in the School of Biosciences joined up with his team joined up with researchers Dr Andrea Brancale and Dr Andrew Westwell from the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, to develop small chemical inhibitors of the Bcl3 gene.

Computer aided modeling of how the Bcl3 gene functions inside the cell allowed the group to identify a pocket on the surface of Bcl3 essential for its function. By screening a virtual compound library for chemicals that could fit inside this pocket, using state-of-the-art computer software, they identified a drug candidate that potently inhibits Bcl3.

The compound was then trialed on mice with metastatic disease. The resulting effect was that the drug completely inhibited the development of the mice’s metastatic tumours.

With financial backing from Tiziana Pharmaceuticals*, work is now underway to progress the compound to clinical trials. The aim is to develop a therapeutic agent capable of blocking metastatic disease in breast cancer and a variety of tumour types.

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Dr Andrea Brancale and Dr Andrew Westwell from the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, joined up with Dr Clarkson, Senior lecturer in the School of Biosciences to develop small chemical inhibitors of the Bcl3 gene.  

3D image of Breast Cancer Experimental Drug BCL3.  Image courtesy of Dr Andrea Brancale