New Drug Can Freeze Cancer Cells to Halt Their Spread

A team at the Oregon Health&Science University Hospital has discovered a compound that thwarts the metastasis of cancer cells in the body of mice. 
Loukia Papadopoulos

A new study published this week in the journal Nature Communications is giving hope to cancer patients in the early stages of the disease. The research, done via a mouse model by Oregon Health & Science University Hospital (OHSU) physicians and scientists, outlines the discovery of a drug compound with the ability to halt cancer motility.

Fatal metastasis

The spread of cancer cells to other body parts known as metastasis is notorious for being the determinant of a cancer patient's death with the chances of survival decreasing the further it has reached. “For the vast majority of cancer—breast, prostate, lung, colon, and others—if it is detected early when it is a little lump in that organ and it has not spread, you will live. And generally, if you find it late, after it has spread throughout your body, you will die,” explained in a statement Raymond Bergan, study author.

“Movement is key: the difference is black and white, night and day. If cancer cells spread throughout your body, they will take your life. We can treat it, but it will take your life," Bergan, who is the associate director of medical oncology in the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute and director of the OHSU Bergan Basic Research Laboratory, emphasized.

Yet despite this awareness, most cancer research so far has been geared towards therapies focused only on killing the cancer. In fact, there is currently no known treatment for stopping the expansion of cancer cells.

Drug compound KBU2046

In 2011, Bergan and his team decided to join forces with chemists to search for a drug that would specifically target cancer motility. They discovered a compound with the potential to affect cell motility in breast, prostate, colon and lung cancers called KBU2046.


The multi-disciplinary team achieved this by employing chemical synthesis approaches to identify and hone compounds that could thwart motility in tumor cells without causing too many side effects or high toxicity. “We started off with a chemical that stopped cells from moving, then we increasingly refined that chemical until it did a perfect job of stopping the cells with no side effects,” Bergan explained.

The ultimate hope for the drug is that it will effectively manage cancer in its early stages so that the disease never reaches the incurable later stages. So far, however, the study has not expanded to human testing.

To reach this stage, the team stipulates it would take two years and five million dollars of funding. Currently, they have begun the process of raising money for investigational new drug-enabling studies, the first step in the process.

“Our eventual goal is to be able to say to a woman with breast cancer: here, take this pill and your cancer won’t spread throughout your body. The same thing for patients with prostate, lung, and colon cancer,” Bergan said.




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