Rather than being a single disease, cancer is a heterogeneous collection of diseases. It therefore follows that in order to diagnose and treat cancer effectively, strategies for patient selection must be combined with the development of molecularly targeted therapeutics so that patients can receive the drug or combination of drugs which is most appropriate for the treatment of their disease, at the appropriate time. This approach necessitates the involvement of multi-disciplinary teams of basic researchers and clinicians, working within an infrastructure which allows for effective knowledge transfer across research laboratories, the Northern Ireland Molecular Pathology Lab and Biobank, hospitals and other stakeholders.
The capabilities of the group include:
- Working with academic groups across the UK, through the CRUK Structural Biology Accelerator programme, to provide access to fragment screening, X-ray crystallography and X-Chem platforms for ‘hit’ identification.
- Medicinal chemistry expertise in hit to lead, focussed library synthesis and the generation of chemical probes for target validation and chemical biology approaches.
- The application of nanoparticle-directed drug delivery to enhance therapeutic efficacy and therapeutic index.
- New training opportunities for graduate students in medicinal and biological chemistry via an exciting new MRes course in Oncology Drug Discovery.
Research is currently focussed in the following areas:
- Development of new strategies for controlling apoptosis regulation by modulation of the cFLIP and p53 pathways.
- Developing strategies for the modulation of proteases with a particular focus on Cysteine proteases, including Legumain, Cathepsin S and the Deubiquitinase target class (e.g. USP7, USP17).
- The development of next generation antibody-based therapeutics
- Development of novel dUTPase inhibitors to augment 5FU treatments
- New therapeutic approaches to target RAS and BRAF mutated colorectal cancers
- Immuno-oncology: Development of new strategies to target the cGAS-STING pathway
- Targeting the androgen receptor and transcription factors (e.g. c-Myc) in prostate cancer
- Development of therapeutic strategies to target the DNA Damage Response.
- The application of new approaches to modulate protein degradation
The multidisciplinary environment within the Patrick G Johnston Centre for Cancer Research, itself situated within easy reach of other QUB research faculties and Clinical Centres, offers an exciting opportunity for chemists, biologists, geneticists, bioinformaticians, physicists, radiographers and clinicians to combine their expertise to facilitate the drug discovery process.