CRUK adds 3-D protein structures to cancer-focused drug discovery database

The Institute of Cancer Research's Bissan Al-Lazikani

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has unveiled version 3.0 of its oncology drug discovery database. The latest iteration of the platform contains more than 110,000 3-D structures for nearly 22,000 proteins, a resource the team behind the database thinks will support improved target selection.

Researchers at the CRUK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) set up the database, called canSAR, in 2011 to collate data on the chemistry and biology of cancer and share them with scientists. Since then, canSAR has undergone two major upgrades, the latest of which was detailed in this week's edition of the Nucleic Acids Research journal. The highlights of the update are the addition of 3-D structures and a feature that automatically adds pharmacological and druggability data to protein-interaction networks.

Bissan Al-Lazikani, the ICR researcher who led the team that developed canSAR, sees these new capabilities adding to the utility of the database for scientists involved with oncology drug discovery and translational research. "Scientists need to find all the information there is about a faulty gene or protein to understand whether a new drug might work," Al-Lazikani said in a statement. "These data are vast and scattered, but the canSAR database brings them together and adds value by identifying hidden links and presenting the key information easily."

Work to improve the database is continuing. Al-Lazikani and her colleagues want to build out the annotation capabilities of the platform, notably through the addition of outcome data from clinical trials of oncology drugs and biomarkers. The annotation of protein-network data will evolve, too, with the team planning to add pathways and tools with which to explore them. "Much of the focus in the next phase of canSAR development will be on enhancing the search and browsing power and development of expert tools in response to user feedback," the team wrote.

- read the statement
- and the paper