New anti-tumor compounds produced by Dr. Aleem Gangjee, Distinguished Professor of Medicinal Pharmacy at Duquesne University's Mylan School of Pharmacy, show such promise for fighting hard-to-treat tumors that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has placed them on its fast track for development.
These agents fight breast and other cancers that become resistant to Taxol and other medications. Preliminary data show that the compounds kill tumor cells without toxicity to normal cells—avoiding the sickness that accompanies most existing cancer-fighters.
"One of the limitations of current cancer treatment is drug toxicity; it necessitates discontinuation of the drug, even if it is effective," Gangjee said. "Because our compounds are not expected to sicken patients and normal cells, it could be continued without toxicity."
The NIH's National Cancer Institute checks hundreds of promising compounds and those showing the greatest potential are fast tracked. Three compounds from Gangjee are in this category.
These water-soluble compounds are easy to make and inhibit tumor cells at low concentrations. The agents are like Trojan horses, effective at tricking cancer cells into accepting them as a building block used to feed tumors.
With more than 1.5 million new cases of cancer diagnosed a year, Gangjee's compounds could positively impact many lives.
Gangjee, who holds four concurrent NIH grants, has received more than 25 patents in 20 years of research at Duquesne, including a recent patent for treatment of ovarian cancer. Ovarian, lung and pancreatic cancers are difficult to detect until later stages—and this drug works particularly well in late-stage treatment, unlike many current therapies.