EDMONTON -- The University of Alberta is touting a new drug that could treat breast and blood cancers.

The new drug, PCLX-001, is set to begin human trials later this year, in three Canadian centres, including the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton. 

“It’s another exciting stepping stone to finding out if this is going to be a new cancer treatment,” John Mackey, professor and director of oncology trials in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, said. 

“We can’t guarantee results,” he said. “But I can tell you hope is what is driving this whole program.”


Patients with advanced and previously treated lymphoma, breast, lung, colon or bladder cancer can enrol in the clinical trial. The goal is to find the right dose for both effectiveness and safety, according to the U of A.

“We’re asking volunteers who have advanced cancers to agree to try a new medication that’s never been in people before,” Mackey said.

U of A cell biologist Luc Berthiaume was the first to discover that PCLX-001 could work against cancer. According to the release, its original use was for treating African sleeping sickness.

For this particular study, Mackey and his team examined breast tumors. They found that 28 per cent of the tumors contained the enzyme N-myristoyltransferase 2.

“This shows that one of the targets of our drug, the enzyme NMT2, is clinically important to overall survival,” Mackey said.

Research showed the drug slowed tumor growth by 90 per cent in mice with human breast cancer. According to the U of A, similar results were reported last year in the drug's effect against lymphoma.

“This will be the first time anyone has ever received PCLX-001 or a drug of this class,” Mackey said.

“If the work we’ve done before turns out to be correct then we’re going to be able to control cancers that are otherwise difficult to control.”

“It’s very exciting, but there are many unknowns,” he said.

The study was funded by the Alberta Cancer Foundation and the Cure Cancer Foundation. 

Barb Henderson was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer four years ago and is now 22 months cancer-free. 

“I’ve had two lumpectomies, one mastectomy, and an awful chemotherapy experience,” she said.

“My cancer treatments, I don’t wish on my worst enemy.” 

The new anti-cancer drug would be taken once a day and is giving hope to cancer patients. 

“Knowing that a pill could possibly negate going through any of the chemo or radiation treatments, I would’ve done that in a heartbeat,” Henderson commented.