New drug molecules offer hope for cancer control

Dr. R. Baskaran.

Dr. R. Baskaran.   | Photo Credit: Handout_E_Mail


“The next step is to get the compounds patented. We should be ready with a defined profile of the ompounds

: A set of seven molecules that show promise in the treatment of Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), a type of blood cancer characterised by rogue growth of white blood cells, has been developed by a team of researchers at the School of Life Sciences of the Pondicherry University.

The team led by Dr. R. Baskaran, Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, screened about 35,000 compounds and benchmarked the shortlisted seven compounds against some of the available potent drugs used for the treatment of CML.

The findings showed that the new molecules showed higher potency in terms of binding affinity to protein and increased binding energy when docked to the BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase gene which is a prime target for drug development (of inhibitors) as it plays a major role in the pathogenesis of CML.

The findings of the team, which also involved Dr. M. Suresh Kumar and researchers, Hemanth Naick, Om Prakash Sharma, Dr. M. Suresh Kumar, assistant professor and Ph.D. scholar Hemanth and Om Prakash, are being published in the latest issue of international journal Nature Scientific Reports which is due in a couple of days.

The team screened an estimated 35,000 compounds before identifying the seven compounds, which were then benchmarked for their efficacy against available drugs using a “high throughput virtual screening approach”.

While currently available drugs in the market are effective against CML, side-effects and drug-resistant mutations have been the flip side.

“The next step is to get the compounds patented. We should be ready with a comprehensively defined profile of the compounds in about two years after in-vitro testing on samples taken from CML patients,” said Dr. Baskaran.

It could take about five years or more for a molecule to be available as an approved drug.

“The biggest benefit is that an indigenously developed drug dramatically reduces treatment costs” he pointed out.

CML patients are usually advised to be on a drug for periods ranging from a minimum 5 years to a lifetime. Currently, a drug like Imatinib costs around Rs. 1.21 lakh per month and even generic versions costs around Rs 6,000-12,000 every month.

According to Cancer Patients Aid Association, approximately 8 people lakh suffer from CML and India is estimated to have 3 lakh patients with this form of cancer with about 20,000 new patients identified every year.

About 20 per cent of patients develop drug resistance as well where the mutant gene responsible for the CML undergoing further mutation. A major finding has been that the new compounds have shown similar efficacy in the wild-type and drug-resistant mutant versions of the BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase gene.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 10:39:19 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/new-drug-molecules-offer-hope-for-cancer-control/article6577629.ece

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