Rodent of the Week: Drug effective in several types of cancer

An experimental drug appears to decrease tumor size in mice with cancer without causing serious side effects, researchers from the University of Michigan reported this week.

The compound, called AT-406, affects apoptosis, which governs the normal cell turnover process. When apoptosis is disrupted, cells don't die on the correct timetable but, instead, keep reproducing uncontrollably. That gives rise to cancer.

The drug removes the barriers to apoptosis in tumor cells, said the lead author of the study, Shaomeng Wang, whose lab has been working on AT-406 for five years. While tumor cells were affected, normal cells were not. Other tests show the drug's effectiveness does not seem to be limited to specific types of cancer.

The compound has been licensed to Ascenta Therapeutics, which Wang co-founded, and is in a phase-one human trial at three medical centers. The medication is given in pill form.

The study was published Tuesday in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

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