The fight against cancer gets multimillion-dollar boost
Published Wednesday, June 24, 2015 2:40PM MDT
A new research partnership announced Wednesday afternoon between the University of Alberta and Alberta Cancer Foundation aims to transform cancer treatment and better patient outcomes.
In what officials called a “dream team” of researchers in the areas of oncology, virology, immunology, chemistry, dentistry and pharmaceutical sciences, the multimillion-dollar partnership could potentially be a “game-changer” for cancer patients.
Led by Khaled Barakat, the interdisciplinary team intends to use small molecules aimed at specific targeted binding sites to jump-start the body’s T cells to fight off cancer.
“These small molecules will have a shorter stay in the blood, allowing the immune system to not be over activated while reducing side effects,” Barakat said in a statement.
“In addition, the small molecules will be cheaper to make, reducing costs for patients and health-care systems,” he said.
According to Barakat, the use of these small molecules is not specific to any type of cancer.
“The concept has been proven by antibodies in many cancer types including advanced melanoma, one of the hardest cancers to treat. Think of our small molecules as a ‘magic drug’ that simply can be used against many types of cancer,” he explains.
The Alberta Cancer Foundation has invested $2.4 million in this research program.
“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,” said Alberta Cancer Foundation CEO Myka Osinchuk.
Based on this partnership, the University of Alberta’s Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology has also contributed $3 million to further this research.
According to the team, they plan to have an “almost-ready” drug, that only needs small tweaking and optimization, in place by the end of the second year of the project.
Officials said at that point they will seek a pharmaceutical partner to develop into a drug for human trials by 2020.