Investigators herald new approach to next-gen cancer drugs

Scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute say they created a new molecule that scrambled the internal communications system for cancer cells, underscoring the potential of epigenetic "reader" proteins as a target for a new generation of more effective oncology therapies.

The Dana-Farber team, led by James Bradner, specifically stopped carcinoma cells from initiating the repeated divisions seen in metastasis and essentially directed the cells to act more like normal cells.

Epigenetics has become a hot topic in cancer drug research circles, with a number of startups focused on early-stage work. The investigators, however, say they're focused on a new segment of epigenetic research which has been largely neglected until now.  If they're right, they'll be able to switch specific genes on or off.

Dana-Farber's new molecule--JQ1--appeared to work just as hoped for in an animal study. "The activity of the molecule was remarkable," says Bradner. "All the mice that received JQ1 lived; all that did not, died."

- check out the Dana-Farber release