Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are the three main therapies used to treat cancerous tumors. The doctoral research network 'Magicbullet::Reloaded'is investigating another approach, with 15 doctoral researchers developing special molecules that stimulate the immune system to destroy tumor cells. In a video, network members explain how doctoral researchers gain valuable experience and research opportunities as part of the network.
Doctoral researchers from organic and medicinal chemistry, tumor biology, and pharmacology will be conducting research at the network through 2024. The collaborative training network consists of nine universities, two research institutions, and four pharmaceutical companies in Germany, Switzerland, the UK, Finland, Italy, and Hungary, and is also being supported by another four companies. Professor Dr Norbert Sewald, a chemist at Bielefeld University, serves as network coordinator. The European Union is providing the network with approximately four million Euro in funding. Here, the recent video about the network can be watched.
To develop these targeted, minimally invasive anti-cancer drugs, Magicbullet::Reloaded researchers attach a substance that can damage tumor tissue to a transporter molecule. Transporter molecules include, for instance, small proteins called peptides, which recognize molecules characteristic of cancer cells. They then bind to these cancerous cells and deliver the substance, which then stimulates an immune response in the tumor cells. This approach is designed to help overcome the problem of developing resistance to the very immunotherapies that are meant to destroy cancerous cells.
Antitumor agents have an address label, so to speak, that indicates which cells they should be delivered to."
Norbert Sewald, Professor and Chemist, Bielefeld University
According to Sewald, medications that work in this way could help make the early vision set forth by Nobel Laureate Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915) a reality. Ehrlich coined the term 'magic bullet' to describe such targeted active substances.
In addition to Bielefeld University, the consortium includes Eötvös Loránd University, in Budapest, Hungary; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, Switzerland; Newcastle University in the UK; the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany; the University of Helsinki in Finland; the University of Insubria in Italy, the University of Milan in Italy, and the University of Cologne in Germany.
Since 2019, Magicbullet::Reloaded has been funded as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network with a total of approximately 4 million Euro as part of the European Union′s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement No. 861316). The training network builds upon the research coordinated by Dr. Sewald from the 'Magicbullet' innovative training network that ran from 2015 until 2018.