Grant to speed development of treatments to overcome cancer drug resistance
October 17, 2017
Researchers have been awarded a 3-year $840K Development Grant to test inhibitors of MRP1, a protein which ejects chemotherapy drugs from cancer cells, in a bid to improve patient survival.
Researchers were last week awarded a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Development Grant to test inhibitors of MRP1, a protein which ejects chemotherapy drugs from cancer cells making them resistant to treatment. If successfully translated to the clinic, the inhibitors will be the first drugs of their kind to be commercially developed, with the ultimate goal to improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy and improve cancer patient survival.
The three-year $840K grant, led by researchers at Children’s Cancer Institute in Sydney, provides financial support to develop the inhibitors from proof-of-concept stage toward a commercial product. Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx), a collaborative partner, will contribute their resources and expertise to ensure that the inhibitors have all the required characteristics to be effective drugs for use in patients.
Professor Michelle Haber AM, Executive Director of Children’s Cancer Institute and the grant’s lead investigator, said drug resistance is a major barrier to successful cancer treatment for many childhood cancer patients.
“This grant builds on more than two decades of research at Children’s Cancer Institute into transporter proteins that eject chemotherapy drugs from tumour cells.
“We’re delighted to be working closely with our longstanding partners CTx to speed the development of inhibitors we’ve identified of MRP1. This protein, multidrug resistant protein 1, is one of the best-known examples of a transporter protein that is able to make cancer cells resistant to multiple chemotherapeutic drugs,” she said.
The new NHMRC development grant will allow the MRP1 inhibitors already identified in a drug screen to be further tested and then, in collaboration with the drug discovery and development organisation, Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx), further improved to make them more ‘drug-like’.
Dr Ian Street, Chief Scientific Officer at CTx, is enthusiastic about the project’s potential.
“We are excited to be involved with this important work, that has the very real potential of improving patient responses to chemotherapy.
“The MRP1 project is one of many productive collaborations linking the paediatric cancer expertise at Children’s Cancer Institute with the drug development know-how at CTx,” he said.
MRP1 and other multidrug resistance proteins are transporter proteins that act like sentries, defending cancer cells against the drugs intended to kill them.
The proteins sit in the cell membrane. In normal cells, they protect cells from potentially toxic chemical build-ups, such as environmental toxins. But cancer cells often hijack them, producing the proteins at high levels to pump out chemotherapy drugs, thereby making these cells drug resistant.
The NHMRC Development Grant will allow researchers to further improve these MRP1 inhibitors and gather the data needed to get them closer to market. The grant was one of 326 grants announced last week across a number of categories totalling more than $197 million.
The Development Grants scheme supports the commercial development of a product, process, procedure or service that, if applied, would result in improved health care, disease prevention or provide health cost savings.
Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx) is in the business of finding cures for cancer. Founded in 2007 and funded by the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Programme, CTx is collaborative partnership of leading Research Institutes, Universities and biotechnology companies that translates Australia’s innovative research discoveries into new cancer drugs ready for clinical development. In particular it is targeting novel cancer pathways associated with the process of metastasis and children’s cancers. Further information about CTX can be found at www.cancercrc.com.
The CRC Programme supports industry led end‐user driven research collaborations to address the major challenges facing Australia. Australia’s network of CRCs operates across all sectors of Australia’s economy and society. Further information about the CRC Programme is available at www.business.gov.au
About Children’s Cancer Institute
Originally founded by two fathers of children with cancer in 1976, Children’s Cancer Institute is the only independent medical research institute in Australia wholly dedicated to research into the causes, prevention and cure of childhood cancer. Forty years on, our vision remains unchanged – to save the lives of all children with cancer and to eliminate their suffering. The Institute has grown to now employ more than 220 researchers, operational staff and students, and has established a national and international reputation for scientific excellence.
Our focus is on translational research, and we have an integrated team of laboratory researchers and clinician scientists who work together in partnership to discover new treatments which can be progressed from the lab bench to the beds of children on wards in our hospitals as quickly as possible. These new treatments are specifically targeting childhood cancers, so we can develop safer and more effective drugs and drug combinations that will minimise side-effects and ultimately give children with cancer the best chance of a cure with the highest possible quality of life.
We are currently leading the establishment of the Zero Childhood Cancer national child cancer personalised medicine program for children with the most aggressive cancers, in partnership with the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network. This program will revolutionise the way treatment decisions are made, with the aim of improving survivorship for those children at highest risk of treatment failure from their disease.