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The Patrick C. Walsh Prostate Cancer Research Fund
New Drug Selectively Kills Prostate Cancer Cells, and Works Even Better When Combined With Radiation
Venu Raman, Ph.D., and colleagues have identified a gene called DDX3. You probably haven’t heard of it, but if it is as promising as Raman believes, you will be hearing more about it someday soon. Raman, who holds a joint appointment in the Department of Radiology and Radiological Science and in the Department of Oncology, is intrigued by DDX3 because “it is essential for the maintenance of man y high-grade tumors, including those of prostate cancer,” he says. When he and colleagues stained cancer tissue samples, they found that “35 percent of tumors with a Gleason score of more than 7 have an increased expression of DDX3.” And this is important because “w e have designed a drug, which we call RK-33, that neutralizes the function of DDX3.” The result? Only the cancer cells die , and the normal cells are unharmed.
“We have designed a drug,” called RK-33, that kills cancer cells, but leaves normal cells unharmed.
Even more exciting, says Raman, The Carolyn and Bill Stutt Scholar, is that when RK-33 is combined with radiation, “it produces a synergistic cell death effect on cancer cells . We are confident that the use of DDX3 as a biomarker, to determine which cancers should be treated with RK-33 and radiation, will not only significantly reduce the tumor burden, but also reduce many side effects of conventional treatment.” When mice were treated with RK-33, they did not demons trate any evidence of toxicity, which suggests that “we can expedite the use of RK-33 into the clinical setting.”