June 24, 2015 4:40 pm
Updated: June 24, 2015 8:23 pm

Edmonton partnership hopes to develop ‘magic drug’ for cancer patients


WATCH ABOVE: A local partnership will provide researchers the opportunity to potentially transform cancer treatment and better patient outcomes. Su-Ling Goh has the details. 

EDMONTON — A new partnership between the University of Alberta, the Alberta Cancer Foundation, and Li Ka Shing Institute will provide researchers the opportunity to potentially transform cancer treatment and better patient outcomes.

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The multimillion-dollar research partnership will enable researchers to develop small molecules that enable the body’s T cells to fight off cancer. The small molecules are being developed and tested through computer modelling, allowing researchers to “simulate the T cell surface proteins and understand how they interact in humans.”

“These small molecules will have a shorter stay in the blood, allowing the immune system to not be over activated while reducing side effects,” explains Dr. Khaled Barakat, Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences research professor, and lead researcher on the project.

“In addition, the small molecules will be cheaper to make, reducing costs for patients and health-care systems.”

The molecules are not isolated to any type of cancer. The molecules have worked on many cancer types including advanced melanoma, adds Barakat.

“Think of our small molecules as a ‘magic drug’ that simply can be used against many types of cancer.”

Researchers intend to have a drug that is nearly ready, requiring only small tweaking and optimization, by the end of the second year of the project. The team will seek a pharmaceutical partner to develop lead structure into a drug for human trials by 2020.

The Li Ka Shing Institute is contributing $3 million to the research, while the Alberta Cancer Foundation is investing $2.4 million.

“Our partnership with the University of Alberta and Li Ka Shing Institute will allow researchers to look at novel ways of treating cancer, where they target the immune system rather than the tumour itself,” says Myka Osinchuk, CEO of the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

“Immunotherapy has been described as a breakthrough for this disease so we are pleased to make this investment on behalf of our donors and are excited about its potential on Albertans facing cancer.”

© 2015 Shaw Media

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