FINDLAY, Ohio (CBS Local) — Pharmacy students in Ohio say they may have discovered a drug to target one of the most aggressive forms of cancer.
Glioblastoma is a cancer that develops in the brain or spinal cord. It is nearly impossible to remove because tumors often overlap with healthy brain tissue.
The National Cancer Institute says the five-year survival rate is about 15 percent. But researchers at the University of Findlay may have created a drug to improve that statistic.
The new drug, nicknamed “RK-15,” is from a compound found in Indian curry called chalcone.
“In my grad school I had worked on natural products and that was kind of like an inspiration for making this designer drug,” Dr. Rahul Khupse, a medicinal chemist working on the project at UF, told WNWO.
— WTOL 11 (@WTOL11Toledo) August 16, 2019
Researchers say RK-15 selectivity targets only the brain cancer cells while sparing the healthy cells.
“Finding those compounds, we can not only get to the brain or get to the brain cancer, but also spare the normal cells, the normal brain cells. This is very, very important for us,” Khupse told CBS affiliate WTOL.
Dr. Khupse said RK-15 also penetrates the brain-blood barrier, or BBB, which is the brain’s defense system, while also targeting the resistant cancer cells.
Researchers said the next step is to test RK-15 on animals, which then could potentially be moved forward into human cancer patient studies.
The team at the University of Findlay is on year two of the typical 10 to 15 year track for getting a new drug from the lab to the patient.
There are approximately 14,000 cases of glioblastoma diagnosed each year in the United States. It is the same cancer that killed both U.S. senators Ted Kennedy and John McCain.