Rodent of the Week: Stopping cancer’s growth

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A substance that works by blocking cancer’s growth is effective in mice and soon will be tested in humans, according to researchers at UC San Francisco.

It’s going to take a lot of research and many more years to determine whether the drug will help people with cancer, but the study published in this week’s issue of PLoS Biology shows that the compound interrupts the cancer cells’ ability to grow and divide. The discovery is based on the knowledge that a kinase (a molecule that sends signals to proteins in the body) called mTOR is central to the ability of cells to grow. But cancer takes advantage of that signal to promote its own growth. The drug, dubbed TORKinib, blocks this process. Another drug already on the market, called rapamycin, also addresses this kinase. But the new study suggests that TORKinib completely blocks the growth signal cycle while rapamycin only partially blocks the cycle.

‘I hope the new drug can be used to treat a range of cancers,’ Kevan Shokat, the lead author of the study, said in a news release. ‘We will work with clinicians to test it against a number of types of cancer -- colorectal, lung, breast, multiple myeloma and others. We want to first find the cancer that is most sensitive to it.’

Shokat, a professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology at UCSF, has co-founded a company called Intellikine to pursue clinical trials on the compound. Other drug companies are also exploring compounds targeted at the mTOR pathway.


-- Shari Roan