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Moffitt’s Top Research Developments of 2017: New Targets for Existing Cancer-Fighting Drugs

December 22, 2017

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2017 saw important discoveries in the battle against cancer, some of them using elements of our own immune system. Here is a look back at the top five research developments of 2017 at Moffitt Cancer Center.

1. CAR T Therapy Tested, Commercially Available at Moffitt

2. Novel Combination Approach to Lung Cancer Wins Moffitt a Stand Up To Cancer Grant

3. New Targets for Existing Cancer-Fighting Drugs

Scientists are learning more about how therapies work to prevent, disarm or kill cancer cells. And in the process, they are discovering new opportunities to deploy existing drugs.

A study published by Moffitt researchers this October found that an FDA approved drug for non-small cell lung cancer called ceritinib has anti-cancer activity against previously unknown targets. The drug, which targets a protein called ALK, is approved to treat patients with ALK-rearranged metastatic non-small cell lung cancer.

But Moffitt researchers found that ceritinib also inhibits the growth of lung cancer cells without the altered ALK gene. In experiments aimed at understanding how this works, they discovered ceritinib has several previously unknown targets with signals that converge onto a protein that causes resistance to a different cancer drug, paclitaxel. Their findings suggest that combining the two drugs may be useful to target a network of changes in cancer.

"The results also demonstrate the benefits of using a combined screening, proteomics and computer-based modeling approach to identify drugs that act on multiple targets and to determine how they function,” said study lead author Uwe Rix, Ph.D., assistant member of the Drug Discovery Program at Moffitt. "In the future, this strategy may facilitate further drug repurposing efforts and lead to an increase in new therapy options for patients with difficult-to-treat diseases."

4. Less is More: Adaptive Therapy

5. New Hope for Aggressive Leukemia