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Computer-designed cancer drug to prevent breast cancer metastasis

2 March 2021

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Breast cancer metastasis causes more than 90% of cancer patient deaths. A computer-aided drug design tool has successfully created a new potential therapy to inhibit this fatal spread of the disease.

A state-of-the-art computer assisted drug design tool was used by Cardiff University researchers to identify virtual chemical compounds that acted on and reduce the activity of a protein called Bcl3. This protein has been shown to be responsible for the spread of breast cancer cells to vital organs.

These new compound will now move on to be tested as potential new breast cancer therapies, demonstrating the potential of drug modelling in the future of cancer treatments.

“I think this study highlights the power of the computer-aided drug design software to identify entirely new drugs for unexploited targets” explained Professor Andrea Brancale, Cardiff University.

“Normally, a computational approach leads to many compounds that require substantial improvement before being considered valuable for drug development. In our case, we were able to find a potent therapeutic agent, with clear clinical potential from just ten hits.”

By using the computer modelling, the researchers were able to dramatically reduce the time and cost of identifying an effective drug candidate.

Professor Andrew Westwell, Cardiff University, said: “We were able to fast-track the drug development pipeline to identify a new lead molecule thanks to this approach. Subsequent lab-based studies have now identified more potent variants of the compound identified by the software which have the potential to be tested in clinical trials in the future.”

While the compounds have yet to be tested in human patients, this approach to drug design has significantly accelerated progress towards first-in-human clinical trials.

“We hope this will be the first of several anti-cancer agents developed in this way to target the malignant cancer cells responsible for disease spread, thus improving long-term outcomes for cancer patients”, added Professor Richard Clarkson, Cardiff University.

The discovery of a novel anti-metastatic Bcl3 inhibitor is published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

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