Oncothyreon helps bring potential cancer drug from lab to patients

By Heather Buschman, Ph.D.
September 15, 2011
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Sanford-Burnham has entered an agreement with Oncothyreon Inc that will allow the biotechnology company to develop sabutoclax, a chemical discovered as a result of research in the laboratories of Dr. Maurizio Pellecchia and Dr. John Reed, into a potential new anti-cancer drug. Sabutoclax inhibits a family of proteins called Bcl-2, which helps cells avoid self-destructing in a process known as apoptosis. By tempering Bcl-2, sabutoclax shows great promise in blocking cancer cell growth.

“Overexpression of one or more members of the Bcl-2 family of proteins is common in most human cancers,” said Dr. Scott Peterson, Vice President of Research and Development at Oncothyreon. “This overexpression prevents the type of cell death known as apoptosis, resulting in resistance to many frequently used cancer treatments.  By blocking Bcl-2 protein function, sabutoclax induces apoptosis in tumor cells and increases the activity of chemotherapy. Sabutoclax inhibits all of the Bcl-2 protein family members, which may prove advantageous when compared with other compounds directed at these targets.”

“We are confident that we have found a strong development partner in the Oncothyreon team that is dedicated to advancing sabutoclax into the clinic for patients battling with cancer,” said Dr. Reed, who has extensively published on the role of Bcl-2 proteins in cancer and also serves as Sanford-Burnham’s CEO.

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Heather Buschman, Ph.D.

Heather was a Sanford-Burnham Communications staff member.

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