Researchers from the University of Vermont’s Cancer Center have developed an innovative approach to killing malignant mesothelioma cells, and its success in the laboratory has led to a scheduled Phase I clinical trial being scheduled to launch later this year. Led by Dr. Brian Cunniff, a team funded by pharmaceutical company RS Oncology and collaborating with Wake Forest School of Medicine has shown that a universal vulnerability in the cancer cell’s waste management systems could be exploited to cause its own death.
Mesothelioma Cells “Choke on Their Own Exhaust”
Dr. Cunniff began his research as a faculty member at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine’s Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Department, and after leaving there and finishing post-doctoral work at Harvard Medical School was contacted about continuing with a specific eye to curing malignant mesothelioma. With funding provided by RS Oncology, he went back to Vermont to continue his research. He spent four-and-a-half years demonstrating the approach and developing and testing a delivery system for humans, and now it is ready for a “first in human” trial to be conducted in England in late 2021. Cunniff’s Vermont laboratory will provide translational research utilizing patient samples.
Describing the way that the drug kills mesothelioma cells, Dr. Cunniff explains, “All tumor cells are very reliant on efficient waste management systems to grow and survive; we interfere with that.” He goes on to say, “The drug takes away the ability of cells to metabolize toxic byproducts, so they essentially choke on their own exhaust.”
Mesothelioma Research Can Apply to Other Cancers
While the clinical trial will specifically target malignant mesothelioma, Dr. Cunniff says that it will be considered for other cancers as well. “There’s significant data in pre-clinical models that indicate this approach could have broad applicability to many cancer types. Until we have sufficient data from the phase 1 clinical trial it will be difficult to fully understand the possibilities of this approach, although there is considerable optimism.”
For information on other innovative treatment options for malignant mesothelioma, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.