Killing cancer stem cells

Daniel ValleraAlthough conventional therapies have benefits, they aren’t always effective and can lead to cancer relapse.

Dan Vallera, Ph.D., leader of a molecular cancer therapeutics program at the U, believes that the inability of standard therapies to kill cancer stem cells could be at the heart of relapse, and is developing a drug to overcome this obstacle.

The drug (called dCD133KDEL) is unlike any available and works by selectively targeting and killing tumor-initiating stem cells.

After testing the drug in mice, Vallera’s team found that it inhibits the progression of tumors in an aggressive form of breast cancer and is effective against other cancers such as head and neck. The team also made major steps in modifying the drug so that it doesn’t compromise healthy cells or get attacked by the immune system.

The next steps for Vallera and his colleagues are to prove the drug is safe and gain FDA approval to study it in people. They plan to test it in breast cancer patients first, and eventually expand it to individuals with a wide range of cancers. Naomi Fujioka, M.D., is leading the clinical trial for this drug at the U. Read more about her work on cancer prevention

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