Researchers at the UF Health Cancer Center have developed a first-of-it-kind compound that may reveal a new way to treat cancer using immunotherapy. Currently, immunotherapy is among the most groundbreaking cancer treatments, but only about 20% to 40% of patients respond to it. It works by first identifying a target protein that contributes to tumor development and then developing a compound that will target that protein specifically, slowing tumor growth and boosting the body’s immune system to fight off the cancer.
The team first identified their target protein as NR4A1, a protein that supports tumor growth and suppresses the body’s ability to fight off disease. They then teamed up with chemists from the UF College of Pharmacy to develop a compound specifically made to target this protein and destroy it. The compound, called NR-V04, is a PROTAC, a form of immunotherapy that targets proteins inside cells rather than surface proteins. This allows the treatment to help patients who might not respond to other types of immunotherapy.
Weizhou Zhang, Ph.D., senior author of the study, says the new compound’s success as both a single and complementary agent is promising for finding new ways to treat patients.
“After an extensive drug discovery process and thorough testing, our data indicate that this novel compound may be more effective as a single agent than current immunotherapy treatments,” said Zhang. Ultimately, this small-molecule-based therapy could complement existing immunotherapy treatments, providing new options for patients who are resistant or do not respond to immunotherapy.”
This new compound has been patented by the team and they are currently moving forward with licensing and drug development.Read more: Novel Compound Opens New Avenue in Immunotherapy Treatment for Cancers.