Project details

Researcher: Dr Klaus Pors

Location: University of Bradford

Research theme: Treatment 

The challenge

Chemotherapy is an important treatment for breast cancer, but it is not always successful at killing breast tumours, and can be less effective in breast cancer that has returned or spread. New, less harsh chemotherapies are needed, particularly for those whose tumours have returned. Dr Klaus Pors is investigating how to unlock the potential of a new potent chemotherapy drug, to provide better treatment options for people living with breast cancer. 

The science behind the project

Duocarmycins are an ultra-potent type of chemotherapy drug, with no known mechanism of leading to drug resistance. Unfortunately, in their original form, they are too toxic to be safely used. To overcome this problem, and unlock the duocarmycins potential as effective breast cancer treatment, Dr Klaus Pors’s team has created new versions of the drugs that only become activated when they reach the cancer cells. Some enzymes responsible for activating the duocarmycins belong to the cytochrome P450 (CYP) family. Some CYP members are frequently overproduced in breast cancer cells and therefore potential drug targets. 

A PhD student, supervised by Dr Pors will be investigating whether these new versions of duocarmycins are effective at killing breast cancer cells in the lab, as well as exploring how they could be combined with other treatments to improve their effectiveness.

Sunitinib is an anti-cancer drug that has been shown to increase levels of CYPs. The team will be investigating whether they can take advantage of this, using sunitinib to increase CYP levels in cancer cells, which will then activate the duocarmycin prodrug – making the treatment more selective to the tumour. The PhD student will also spend time with Prof Stewart Martin at University of Nottingham where he will be exploring whether this treatment combination makes tumours more sensitive to radiotherapy

What difference will this project make?

If successful, this project could lead the way for further investigations into combining duocarmycins with other treatments, and could eventually be evaluated in the clinic to explore its potential as a new, powerful treatment alternative for people living with breast cancer. 

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