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New opportunity to target kidney cancer

Media Release
21 July 2008

New opportunity to target kidney cancer

Scientists at The University of Auckland and Stanford University School of Medicine, have been working together to develop a new approach to targeting kidney cancer.

The research centred around the VHL gene, which does not work in the majority of kidney tumour cells. The Stanford team, headed by Dr Amato Giaccia, identified a small molecule, STF-62247, that would kill cells where the VHL gene is not functioning, but is generally harmless to most other cells in the human body.

Extending this discovery, Dr Michael Hay in the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre at The University of Auckland has designed related molecules which retain the cancer-selective properties but have characteristics more suitable for potential use as a human drug.

These novel compounds induce autophagy, a cellular process that normally recycles cell components. In the absence of a functional VHL gene, this process becomes lethal, thus killing kidney cancer cells with the faulty gene and sparing normal cells.

The research is published in the international journal Cancer Cell.

"Kidney cancer is the tenth most prevalent cancer in the New Zealand population, and affects about twice as many men as women," says Professor Bill Denny, Principal Investigator on the Auckland research. "By taking the Stanford molecule and adapting it, we have created related compounds that retain the desired cytotoxic properties whilst improving other important factors like water-solubility, necessary for making an effective human drug. The hope is that by developing this class of drug further we will eventually have a better treatment that will improve the long term health of kidney cancer patients."

The research was funded through a National Cancer Institute Programme Grant.


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