Drug Development Institute
Pelotonia Funds Are Translating OSUCCC – James Discoveries Into New Cancer Treatments
The Drug Development Institute (DDI) is a biotech-like institute embedded in The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. The DDI identifies promising anticancer agents discovered by OSUCCC – James researchers, advancing them through the pharmaceutical development process with the goal of partnering with industry to deliver new therapies to patients.
The DDI was founded by Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, director of Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center and CEO of The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, and by Timothy Wright, a former executive of several pharmaceutical companies and chair of the DDI External Advisory Board, in 2010. The DDI was organized to address the developmental gap that exists between discoveries made in the academic lab and the conversion of those discoveries to new therapies in patients. The DDI utilizes its extensive industry drug-development experience to substantially reduce the risks, time delays and costs of advancing basic research breakthroughs into treatments. This de-risking approach is done in partnership with Ohio State research teams and places strong emphasis on multidisciplinary collaboration. By bringing an industry-focused perspective to investment and management decisions, the DDI ensures that research programs have a high likelihood of success.
Here are four examples of OSUCCC – James anticancer agents currently in development by the DDI with support from Pelotonia funds.
Activated B-cells for Cancer Immunotherapy
OSUCCC – James researchers have developed an anticancer vaccine that uses B lymphocytes, or B cells, the type of immune cells best known for fighting infections by releasing antibodies. B cells in this new vaccine are used to fight cancer by boosting the patient’s immune system. The researchers have already shown that these B cells can attack tumors and dramatically decrease their size. They now aim to establish that the B cells promote the rejection of established tumors and tumors that generate a poor immune response. The researchers believe that their approach can overcome the limitations of related immune therapies currently on the market or in clinical trials testing.
Multivalent Notch Ligands for Cancer Immunomodulation
Low numbers of Notch signaling receptors on the surface of immune cells weaken the immune response against cancer cells. Researchers at the OSUCCC – James are synthesizing molecules that interact with Notch receptors and modulate Notch signaling. They believe that the molecules could work as anticancer agents by helping the immune system recognize and react against tumor cells that arise in the body. Currently, they are synthesizing the novel molecules and testing them in the laboratory. The next step is to identify a set of candidate molecules that will be assessed for safety and effectiveness in animal cancer models.
A Novel MRI Imaging Agent
A practical, safe method for expanding the use of MRI to visualize tumors a quarterinch or smaller in size would greatly help doctor detect cancer earlier. OSUCCC – James researchers are developing a technology that uses submicroscopic particles that assemble themselves into larger molecules in the acidic conditions around a tumor. There, the molecules enlarge 20 to 100 times their size and self-assemble into tiny fibers that remain in the tissue surrounding the tumor. Attaching a label to the molecules would make them a cancer-targeted MRI-imaging agent. The technology might work with a broad range of cancers and could be particularly useful for detecting small, early lung cancers. The same technology might also work for delivering drugs or radiotherapy to tumors.
Epigenetic Inhibitors for Cancer Treatment and Autoimmune Disease
Protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs) are a family of enzymes that regulate a wide variety of cellular functions and are frequently associated with many human cancers. Recently, increasing evidence suggests that PRMT5, an important member of the PRMT family, is a potential oncoprotein and thus may cause cancer. Thus, PRMT5 is an important target for therapeutic strategies. OSUCCC – James researchers are evaluating PRMT5 inhibitors for the therapeutic treatment of glioma, hematologic malignancies and autoimmune diseases. Ohio State is a center of excellence in PRMT5 research and is leveraging these resources to develop a targeted PRMT5 inhibitor. Currently no PRMT5 inhibitor exists in any stage of clinical development, giving the OSUCCC – James an opportunity to develop a first-in-class therapeutic.