Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

RCSI researchers develop new class of cancer treatment technology

07 April 2011

Dr. Celine Marmion (Principal Investigator) and Dr. Darren Griffith, Department of Pharmaceutical & Medicinal Chemistry, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) have discovered a new innovative class of platinum drug candidates for the treatment of cancer, which has recently been licensed to a pharmaceutical company for further development.

The novel technology developed at RCSI has focused on the development of multi-functional platinum drug candidates, which within cancer cells would simultaneously target DNA and a class of enzymes called histone deacetylases (HDAC). These platinum drug candidates have demonstrated potent anti-cancer activity and have been shown to be selective for cancer cells over normal healthy cells.

Dr Celine Marmion, Principal Investigator said ‘Success in drug development depends on a multi-disciplinary approach. In addition to having an excellent research group, we have been very fortunate to have strong collaborative links internally (Dr. M. Morgan, MCT, RCSI), nationally (Dr. D. Egan, IT Tallaght and Dr. K. Kavanagh, NUI Maynooth) and internationally (Professor V. Brabec, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic). I wish also to acknowledge the RCSI Technology Transfer team, particularly Dr. Aoife Gallagher in this case who played a key role in negotiations culminating in the licensing agreement. I also acknowledge Science Foundation Ireland for funding this work and for their continued support'.

Cancer is a leading cause of death. In 2007 alone it accounted for 7.9 million deaths worldwide(2). Deaths from cancer are projected to continue rising, with an estimated 12 million deaths in 2030 (2).

Chemotherapy plays a vital role in cancer treatment. The use of platinum drugs is an essential component of many anticancer treatments, but their success has been restricted due to their limited activity against many common cancers, their susceptibility to drug resistance and their strong side effects. Despite these drawbacks, in 2009 anti-cancer drug sales exceeded $50bn worldwide(1) and currently nearly 50% of all anticancer therapies are platinum based. The technology developed in RCSI addresses these problems because they have a different mechanism of action and have less toxic side effects compared to existing platinum drugs.

Dr Ruth Freeman, Director International & Enterprise Affairs, Science Foundation Ireland ‘the technology developed by Dr Marmion and her team is truly innovative. By bringing the technology on to the next stage of development, it is being directed towards an unmet patient need.'

The technology was developed by Dr Celine Marmion, Principal Investigator and Dr Darren Griffith from the Department of Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland through funding from the Science Foundation Ireland ‘Research Frontiers Programme'. The research was published in Chemical Communications, the flagship journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry.