Liver Cancer Chemotherapeutic Moves Closer to Commercialization

in Front Page, Research
March 8th, 2013

Professor Scott SchausBoston University’s competitive Ignition Award Program funds faculty to advance their research toward commercialization (e.g., licensing, startup companies).  Prof. Scott Schaus and his co-inventor, Prof. Ula Hansen in BU Biology, have received an Ignition Award to develop a small molecule chemotherapeutic for the effective treatment of primary liver cancer.

Liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), is the fifth most common cancer worldwide (approximately 1 million new cases each year) and the third largest cause of deaths (600,000 deaths each year).  Due to metabolic syndrome and hepatitis, the incidence of liver cancer is increasing and there are few therapeutic options.  Currently there is only one FDA-approved drug (Nexavar) that can enhance lifespan by only 3 months, with significant negative side effects.

The BU research team has shown that transcription factor Late SV40 (LSF) is an oncogene for HCC, highly expressed in patient tumors, driving both tumor growth and metastasis.  Their work has demonstrated that LSF inhibitors cause rapid death of HCC cells in vitro and that these inhibitors stop HCC growth in vivo (mouse models).  There is a remarkable lack of side effects/toxicity in the mouse models. With the Ignition Award, they will perform a detailed toxicological assessment of compounds; assess the pharmacokinetic and oral availability; and determine the LSF biological targets that lead to cell death in HCC upon treatment with inhibitors.  Through licensing, they anticipate that they will be able to develop new small molecule LSF inhibitors and a biomarker for early stage disease.