Anti-Cancer Compound Shows Promise in Pre-Clinical Studies

Gary Piazza, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, leads the Drug Discovery Research Center at USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute.

An anti-cancer compound developed at USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute in Mobile may help patients with pancreatic and breast cancer.

Gary Piazza, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, and his team at the Drug Discovery Research Center at MCI developed MCI-715.

“MCI-715 was designed to inhibit the activity of a specific protein overexpressed in cancer cells that drives malignant progression, as well as resistance of cancer cells to conventional chemotherapeutic drugs,” said Piazza.

Pre-clinical studies with MCI-715 in Australia and Alabama have shown promising results.

Researchers at Curtin University in Western Australia studied MCI-715’s effectiveness against pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), a highly aggressive cancer for which chemotherapeutic drugs provide limited benefits and are associated with severe toxicities.

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“We were able to show that by targeting this specific protein with the modified drug, it significantly decreased the spread of PDAC and slowed tumor growth,” said Marco Falasca, Ph.D., professor at the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences at Curtin University.

The findings are significant because the pancreatic cancer protein is known to be resistant to chemotherapy. “Any discovery that can improve the survival rates of patients with pancreatic cancer and provide another treatment option is significant,” Falasca said.

In Alabama, Clinton Grubbs, Ph.D., a researcher with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, found that MCI-715 was effective in a pre-clinical model of breast cancer prevention to a level comparable to tamoxifen. Tamoxifen is widely used to prevent the progression of breast cancer in high-risk patients but also is associated with severe side effects.

“Based on these data, a second study is planned to further evaluate efficacy and toxicity in a more comprehensive manner,” said Grubbs, director of the Chemoprevention Center in the UAB Department of Surgery.

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama supports a joint grant that funds Grubbs’ and Piazza’s research.

The results of the two independent labs, along with studies at MCI, provide evidence that MCI-715 has promise. “These results support the need for further preclinical studies to further assess the efficacy and safety for the prevention or treatment of cancers,” Piazza said.

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