Credit: University of Glasgow

Possible new cancer drug discovered by Glasgow researchers

By Lauren Brooks

In collaboration with Breast Cancer Now, the University has evidence that the new drug may be beneficial in fighting breast cancer.

University of Glasgow researchers, in collaboration with Breast Cancer Now, have findings which suggest that a cancer protein may be effectively treated by a new drug already being investigated for its beneficial role in blood cancers.  

The new BH3 mimetics drug could be used to target the protein, MCL-1, which is found in high levels in breast cancer cells. The protein helps tumours to survive by stopping the cell’s natural ability to die through “apoptosis”, with the protein causing the tumour to grow more aggressively. The drug would stimulate the cancer protein, causing tumour cell death, and therefore slow down the growth of tumours in breast cancer cells.

The study was led by Professor Stephen Tait and Dr Kirsteen Campbell at the Institute of Cancer Sciences at the University of Glasgow, in collaboration with Professor Karen Blyth from the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, Glasgow. The research was funded by Breast Cancer Now, in partnership with the Scottish government’s Chief Scientist Office and took place at the University of Glasgow.

Dr Simon Vincent, director of Research, Support and Influencing at Breast Cancer Now, stated: “With around 55,000 women being diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the UK, we urgently need to find new ways to treat people and prevent deaths from this devastating disease. As such, while further research is needed, we hope this study leads to new and effective treatments being available for people affected by breast cancer.”

In the study the team tested whether BH3 mimetic drugs could stop the growth of breast cancer in mice by targeting the MCL-1 protein. The results show that these drugs significantly slowed down the growth of tumours and therefore have potential to treat those affected with breast cancer. 

“It’s hugely exciting that this study could confirm the role that the MCL-1 protein plays in allowing breast cancer cells to survive and grow,” Dr Vincent commented. “With this understanding we can now explore targeting the protein with drugs that are already being tested for treating other types of cancer.”

The published research in Cell Death & Differentiation can be found here.


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