The collaboration between Professor Iain McEwan and TPP Global Development Limited with funding from an Encompass Kick Start Award has addressed a topic of high interest: cancer of the prostate, now the most commonly diagnosed cancer in UK men (nearly 3,000 new cases reported in Scotland in 2009, with almost 800 deaths in 2010). Treatment of advanced disease primarily involves modifying two mechanisms necessary for normal growth and differentiation of the prostate gland: either targeting the androgen-signalling pathway by blocking production of testicular androgens or inhibiting the androgen receptor (AR) function. While such treatments are initially successful in controlling the disease, the tumour escapes this therapy and progresses to a hormone-insensitive state with a poor prognosis. Treatment options then are limited to chemotherapy or novel inhibitors of steroid biosynthesis.
Professor McEwan and TPP Global Development identified the unmet need for new inhibitor molecules that target the AR function to augment or replace existing therapies. They designed and analysed the ability of four such molecules to bind to the AR (ie blocking the protein binding to specific genomic sequence and thus inhibiting its function). If successful, such a strategy would have the advantage over standard therapies that it would be able to circumventing drug resistance. Two of the molecules showed high affinity binding to the receptor.
Further functional analysis might lead to patentable molecules which will serve as lead compounds for more extensive drug discovery and development, involving further collaboration between the commercial and academic partners. In addition it is envisaged that such molecules could lead to new research tools to understand receptor function.
For further information, contact
Dr Miguel Rey, Research & Innovation
Email: Miguel Rey
Tel: 01224 274157