This new approach is the result of more than a decade of research and testing done by scientists at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, Australia.
Under the coordination of Associate Professor Tim Thomas and Associate Professor Anne Voss, the team has been focusing on inhibiting KAT6A and KAT6B proteins, known malignancy markers. Both of these two compounds are responsible for cell proliferation, effectively driving tumor growth.
“Early on, we discovered that genetically depleting KAT6A quadrupled the life expectancy in animal models of blood cancers called lymphoma. Armed with the knowledge that KAT6A is an important driver of cancer, we began to look for ways of inhibiting the protein to treat cancer”, said Professor Thomas.
While effective, chemotherapy and radiation present some important downsides. They work by causing irreversible DNA damage to cells, affecting cancerous and healthy ones alike. This results in side effects such as nausea, fatigue, hair loss, susceptibility to infection or even increased risk of other cancers developing.
“Rather than causing potentially dangerous DNA damage, as chemotherapy and radiotherapy do, this new class of anti-cancer drugs simply puts cancer cells into a permanent sleep”, said Voss.
The WM-8014 and WM-1119 courses represent a “lateral” approach. Safer, more potent and more precise, they can become a new tool to substantially delay cancer recurrence.
“This new class of compounds stops cancer cells dividing by switching off their ability to ‘trigger’ the start of the cell cycle. The technical term is cell senescence. The cells are not dead, but they can no longer divide and proliferate. Without this ability, the cancer cells are effectively stopped in their tracks”.
New cancer treatments are expected to stem from these findings, improving overall care and patient outcome.