The NEOMED Institute announces its collaboration with McGill University. Dr. Kemal Payza, Senior Project Director at NEOMED Institute will collaborate with Dr. Alain Nepveu, Professor at the Goodman Cancer Research Centre and Departments of Oncology, Biochemistry and Medicine at McGill University, to discover new therapeutic small molecules to inhibit the protein target, Cut-Like Homeobox 1 (CUX1).
“I am delighted that we have added this new drug discovery project into NEOMED’s pipeline and I look forward to working with Dr. Nepveu on this very exciting target,” explains Dr. Payza. “Dr. Nepveu is a renowned expert on the DNA repair function of CUX1, a mechanism upon which RAS-driven cancer cells are acutely dependent for their survival. This is very important because currently there is no treatment that targets RAS-driven tumours.”
Activation of the RAS pathway in cancer cells leads to higher production of reactive oxygen species, which, therefore, causes DNA damage. In turn, sustained DNA damage triggers cellular senescence. Cancer cells can adapt to such oxidative DNA damage by increasing their expression of CUX1, which stimulates the activities of two enzymes that repair oxidized bases in DNA. Knocking down the CUX1 protein has been found to kill all cancer cells that have high levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Thus, small molecules that inhibit the ability of CUX1 to stimulate those critical DNA repair enzymes would be expected to provide therapeutic benefit to patients with RAS-driven cancers.
“This academic/industrial collaboration that we have entered into with the NEOMED Institute will permit us to rapidly leverage our biological understanding of this important target to develop small molecule drug candidates,” adds Nepveu. “A drug capable of interfering with the ability of CUX1 to participate in DNA repair would target many types of cancers in which reactive oxygen species are produced as a consequence of mutation in a RAS gene or any oncogene that activates the RAS pathway; such activation is seen in 59 per cent of pancreatic cancers and some 30 per cent of human cancers overall.”
The president & CEO of NEOMED Institute concludes, “This collaboration exemplifies, once again, the ability of NEOMED to deliver on its mission to help advance academic innovation and excellence by leveraging our industrial drug development experience and expertise. We look forward to collaborating with world-leading experts, like Dr. Nepveu and Dr. Zubaidah Ramdzan, to translate their science into therapeutic options for patients within the Canadian ecosystem.”