Wafik El-Deiry, M.D., Program Leader
Mark Kester, Ph.D., Co-Program Leader
The Experimental Therapeutics program (ET) strives to identify novel targets for the design of cancer therapy drugs. Chemoprevention, avoiding cancer before it begins, is also an area of research for the ET program.
The program is organized into focus groups composed of both clinical and basic scientists with similar research interests to better translate basic science discoveries into clinical applications.
The ET program uses the Drug Discovery Core Facility to identify new inhibitors that may be used to investigate cancer cell function, and serve as prototypes for developing new anticancer drugs. Several projects have focused on the design of new inhibitors of signaling proteins, and determining how these compounds exert their anticancer activities. The Drug Discovery Core has worked on eleven new targets and identified new inhibitors of the target proteins in all but one case. Multiple patents and several spin-off companies have resulted from the work of program members.
Ongoing early stage clinical trials include using opiod growth factor ([Met5]-enkephalin) in the treatment of pancreatic, colon, and head and neck cancers, and using the DNA repair inhibitor O6-benzylguanine to inactivate a key mechanism for tumor resistance to alkylating agents.
Strategies using nanotechnology have been used to provide targeted drug delivery. Ceramide liposomes loaded with chemotherapeutics have been used to treat breast, melanoma, and LGL leukemia in model systems. In fact, the National Cancer Institute's Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory chose this technology, developed by Dr Mark Kester in the Dept of Pharmacology, as a Core Technology for evaluation. The technology also won first place at the International Nanotechnology Business Idea Award Competition, sponsored by Case Western Reserve University. Other nanotechnology initiatives include designing nanopatterned surfaces for rapid SNP analysis, developing thermoresponsive nanodendrimers for cancer treatment, and using ferro-nanoparticles for MRI imaging.