Clinical trial to thwart cancer stem cells may begin soon

3D illustration of a cancer cell

An international team lead by Denis Slamon at the University of California, Los Angeles and Tak Mak at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center in Toronto announced today that they had filed all the paper work necessary with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin a clinical trial in patients with solid tumors.

The announcement highlighted the power of basic science to point to possible targets for therapy. It also showed the power of collaboration—both in science and in funding—to accelerate the path to therapies. This project began with a joint commitment from CIRM and the Canadian Cancer Stem Cell Consortium in October 2009 to support the research with more than $30 million over four years. The project also attracted major support from private philanthropies in Canada.

The Prince Margaret Center announced the FDA filing, called an Investigational New Drug application (IND), at an event in Toronto recognizing the private donors. A press release about the announcement was picked up at this biotech news site.

By working first to understand the various proteins that drive cells to divide, particularly in cancer, they were able to pinpoint an enzyme, that if blocked, could be the key to keeping cancer in check. They then discovered that this enzyme, called PLK4, can be derailed by a new drug they developed. In the lab, it has been shown to inhibit the growth of breast, ovarian, colorectal, lung, pancreatic and prostate cancer, as well as melanoma.

Paul Alofs, the president of the cancer center’s foundation commented about the long, dogged pursuit of the research team in the press release:

This truly amazing accomplishment has been led by two prolific innovators in the world of cancer research. Their commitment and a decade of unwavering focus to uncover the important keys to conquering cancer is outstanding. While there is still risk and a long way to go in this new drug discovery process, what this team has been able to achieve is nothing short of incredible.

You can read more about UCLA’s Slamon and the CIRM disease team here.


3 thoughts on “Clinical trial to thwart cancer stem cells may begin soon

  1. To be clear, the press release does not mention cancer stem cells. While I am aware PLK4 is upregulated in CSC relative to normal cancer cells, can anyone confirm to me that CSC/tumour initiating cells are actually the target here?

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