A new compound developed in a laboratory at Cardiff University holds great potential for fighting colon cancer. The compound, OH14, in now under license at Tiziana Life Sciences, which is a pharmaceutical company based in Britain. OH14 targets cancer stem cells that are common to aggressive forms of colon cancer.
“We are delighted to extend our relationship with Tiziana Life Sciences,” said Dr. Richard Clarkson, lead researcher on the discovering team, in a news release from Cardiff University. “OH14 is an example of a new generation of experimental agents designed to selectively target the pernicious stems cells within a tumour, thus improving the long-term prospects of cancer patients.”
OH14 originated from a computer model created in the University’s European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute (ECSCRI) and the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. The model screened a library of agents that target the c-FLIP protein (cellular FLICE [FADD-like IL-1β-converting enzyme]-inhibitory), found to be essential to cancer stem cell maintenance and survival.
“Our computer aided drug screening process has now identified two new classes of anti-cancer agents, specifically targeting two distinct and novel mechanisms underpinning cancer,” said Dr. Andrea Brancale, leader on the project to design the compound. In preclinical models of cancer, the research team found that OH14 can eliminate multiple types of cancer cells, including those commonly identified in colon, breast, pancreas, and prostate cancers. Tiziana will be developing OH14 further before initiating human clinical trials.
Tiziana mirrors the excitement of Dr. Clarkson in finding a new anti-cancer stem cell compound. “We are very excited to help drive forward this project in the promising new field of cancer stem cell therapeutics, and delighted to have extended our relationship with Cardiff University,” said Gabriele Cerrone, Chairman of Tiziana Life Sciences. “We look forward to working with the University to identify further inhibitors of c-FLIP.”
Targeting c-FLIP gives OH14 efficacy for two reasons. First, cancer cells’ self-defense mechanisms are deactivated, allowing the immune system to rid the dangerous cells from the body. Second, cancer cell growth is inhibited. Both are a function of c-FLIP protein’s role in preventing TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) from inducing cell death.
The licensing agreement is especially exciting for ECSCRI because it is the first experimental anti-cancer stem cell agent from the institute. “This is an exciting breakthrough as cancer stem cells are thought to be responsible for the failure of many cancer treatments and the re-emergence of cancers, often many years after the initial disease,” said Dr. Lee Campbell, Research Projects and Science Communications Manager at Cancer Research Wales, which partly funded the study. “Therefore the ability to eliminate cancer stem cells from the body offers the opportunity to totally eradicate stubborn and residual disease once and for all. As a charity we are proud to be associated with such ground-breaking research here in Wales and look forward to seeing how these new compounds perform in patients.”
It will be some time before OH14 can be tested in patients with colon cancer, but the team is off to a great start now that Tiziana is collaborating with Cardiff University.