Researchers have been grappling for years with the STAT5 protein as a tool to fight cancer. STAT5 is critical because it is partly responsible for the development and progression of certain blood cancers.
According to a news item published this week by Medical Life Sciences, after years of unsuccessfully investigating STAT5, the protein was moved to the ‘undruggable’ category.
Undaunted and based on a new approach, the scientists at Michigan’s Rogel Cancer Center found that they could remove STAT5 from mice and cell cultures by way of a protein degrader. The stage was set to develop the protein as a treatment against cancer.
The previous challenge had been to design a drug with the ability to bind to STAT5. Additionally, it is difficult to find a protein that only inhibits STAT5 and does not affect other STAT proteins. Then there was a concern that the protein may not be absorbed into cells or tissue.
The New Approach
Now the researchers are harnessing the cell’s machinery to degrade proteins that had been classified as ‘undruggable.’
Dr. Shaomeng Wang professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacology at Michigan University, has been working on new drug development.
In order to maintain stability (homeostasis), proteins are naturally destroyed in cells. The body continually makes proteins while at the same time, it removes the proteins that are no longer active, or that are mutated, through a process called degradation.
If a cell is not able to remove specific proteins, they can accumulate and cause diseases such as cancer, in which STAT5 plays a critical role. Dr. Wang and his team have spent several years working with protein degraders. Currently, their studies are in the preclinical stage, but they hope to move on to clinical trials involving the treatment of cancer in the near future.
Bristol Myers Squibb and their research teams are also working with protein degrader agents. Squibb has launched multiple protein degraders and has several protein degrader agents in clinical trials.