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Saturday, May 08, 2021

UF researchers discover new anticancer drug

UF researchers may have found a more effective treatment for certain types of cancers.

Researchers from the UF College of Pharmacy say they have found a potential drug to treat some types of leukemia, lymphoma and breast and lung cancers. The results were published in Nature Medicine last month.

The potential drug is a compound called DT2216 and acts on a protein that increases cancerous cells and resists treatment, said Daohong Zhou, a professor in the UF College of Pharmacy.

According to a report by UF Health News, an inhibitor to stop the protein’s growth already exists, but it is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration because it puts people at risk of bleeding and is harmful.

Zhou collaborated with Guangrong Zheng, a professor in the UF College of Pharmacy, in this study.

The study began over a year and a half ago. Zhou and Zheng strategized to develop DT2216 through a technology that degrades and breaks down cancer-promoting proteins. The goal was to effectively and safely treat a variety of cancers, which takes a lot of testing and review before being brought out to the public.

“By inducing protein degradation, we can potentially heal those cancer cells,” Zhou said.

To test their hypothesis, researchers used mathematical and mouse models. For example, human tumor cells were implanted into mice so they could grow cancerous tumors, Zhou said. DT2216 was then tested and found successful.

Results show the compound was stronger on a variety of tumor cells, but was less harmful to platelets, Zhou said. This makes DT2216 significant because it is not as harmful as other solutions, according to Zhou.

DT2216 is technically not considered a drug yet, because the FDA has not approved it for public use, Zheng said. The drug discovery process takes typically more than 10 years to progress from the lab to a patient.

“It’s a long process,” Zheng said. “We’ve basically finished the first period of discovery.”

The study is being led by a multidisciplinary team composed of UF, Columbia University, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Zhou said.

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After about two to five years of human testing, the FDA will decide if the drug is safe and effective enough to use clinically, Zheng said.

“It’s hard to predict [the outcome],” Zheng said. “Hopefully we are able to

reach that final stage.”

Contact Meleah Lyden at mlyden@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @MeleahLyden. 

Correction: The headline and first sentence of this story was changed to reflect that researchers did not find a potential cure for cancer. The Alligator originally reported differently. 

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