Newly developed cancer-fighting drug could treat brain cancer

Typically takes more than a decade for a drug to get from the lab to the patient

FINDLAY, Ohio - Nearly 40 percent of all Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes.

Pharmacy students at an Ohio college believe they have found a drug to target the most aggressive form.

"What they have right now is great in terms of glioblastoma, but it's not enough in terms of survival rates that you're seeing," explained Jacob Reyes, a graduate student researcher at the University of Findlay.

Glioblastoma is cancer that develops in the brain or spinal cord and is nearly impossible to remove.

Experts say the five-year survival rate is less than 10 percent but researchers at the University of Findlay may have created a drug to improve that statistic.

"Looking at activity we've seen from drug compounds treating glioblastoma in the past, we've kind of used a molecule called chalcone that's just a type of drug molecule, but its something actually found in curry I guess, the food curry," said Reyes.

That's right, the compound called chalcone can be found in curry, the popular Indian food.

Dr. Rahul Khupse, a medicinal chemist working on the project, grew up in India and said he discovered that chalcone has anti-inflammatory properties as well as anti-cancer properties.

"In my grad school I had worked on natural products and that was kind of like an inspiration for making this designer drugs," said Khupse.

So they worked to develop a new compound that they've nicknamed RK-15.

One of the major breakthroughs about this compound is its selectivity to target only the brain cancer cells while sparing the healthy cells.

"Selectivity is the holy grail of cancer therapy because we know that chemotherapy has a lot of side effects, so how do we achieve. That selectivity where our compounds can only kill brain cancer, glioblastoma, and spare the normal brain," explained Khupse.

RK-15 also penetrates the blood-brain barrier, or BBB, which is the brain's defense system while also targeting the resistant cancer cells.
Researchers said this makes RK-15 100 times more selective toward the infectious cells.

"What if by chance something were to have activity and down the road someday, I look back and think like wow that's the drug I worked on and here it is saving lives," said Reyes.

Experts say it typically takes 10 to 15 years for a new drug to get from the lab to the patient.

2019 WSLS / WNWO