Drug Development Institute

Pelotonia Funds Support the Development of Anticancer Agents by OSUCCC – James Researchers

Timothy WrightIn 2011, the OSUCCC – James collaborated with the colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy and Business to organize The Ohio State University (DDI). The institute guides the development of promising anticancer drugs produced by OSUCCC – James researchers.

Timothy Wright, a former executive of several pharmaceutical companies, directs the institute in conjunction with Bence Boelcskevy, PhD, also a former pharmaceutical executive. They fast-track promising compounds through the testing needed for use in clinical trials. Currently, the institute has six anticancer agents in its pipeline. The DDI receives Pelotonia funds to facilitate their further development. Following is a brief description of each of these agents.

PRMT5 Inhibitor

PRMT5 is an enzyme that plays a vital role in cancer-cell growth. It is highly expressed in lymphoma, acute leukemia and other hematologic malignancies, and in solid tumors, including head and neck, lung, melanoma and brain. OSUCCC – James researchers have developed a first-in-class PRMT5 inhibitor that they believe will effectively stop tumor growth. The inhibitor is now in preclinical testing.


Chemobodies are a special class of small molecules that can perform antibody-like functions, either alone or after combining with a protein inside the cell. They have the potential to block protein-protein interactions, which are extremely important drug targets but have been unreachable by conventional agents. OSUCCC – James researchers have developed chemobodies that inhibit K-Ras, a protein implicated in about 30 percent of all cancers.

Epstein-Barr Virus Vaccine

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a common viral infection that causes mononucleosis. It is also associated with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Burkitt’s lymphoma and other cancers; with conditions associated with HIV infection; and with certain autoimmune diseases. If EBV is present in a blood stem cell or in a donated solid organ, it can cause post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD). This often-fatal complication can follow a stem-cell or organ transplant. OSUCCC – James researchers are developing an EBV vaccine to prevent PTLD and to potentially help other EBV-related conditions.

STAT3 Inhibitor

Tumor growth can be promoted or suppressed by various signaling pathways in cancer cells, including STAT3. The tumor-suppressor role of STAT3 has been reported in human glioblastoma, or brain cancer. Recent studies have shown that STAT3 has an inhibiting role in colon carcinogenesis depending on tumor stage. OSUCCC – James researchers are collaborating with Nationwide Children’s Hospital in defining the STAT3 effects in sarcoma, and they are initiating a multi-pronged research program in melanoma, lung and pancreatic cancer.

Nucleoside Analog

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a primary cause of liver cancer, which is the second-leading cause of cancer death globally and a growing problem in the United States. Effective treatments are needed. Nucleoside analogs are a special class of small molecules that inhibit HCV infections. OSUCCC – James researchers and the DDI are developing a promising nucleoside analog that eradicates HCV and removes a critical driver that can lead to liver cancer.

Fenretinide Oral Patch

About 300,000 Americans annually develop precancerous lesions in the mouth that can progress to oral cancer (nearly 36,000 people in the United States develop oral cancer yearly). Currently, these lesions are removed surgically, but they tend to recur. A team of OSUCCC – James researchers has developed a patch that adheres to the lesions and releases a drug to treat them. The drug, fenretinide, is a synthetic derivative of vitamin A and has highly promising anticancer properties. The patch could provide an alternative to surgery and reduce the incidence of oral cancer.

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