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6 Nov

New advanced therapy for cancer of the uterus granted US patent

Researchers look at cells on a computer screen

Researchers at Swansea University have been granted a US patent for a potential new treatment to tackle cancer of the uterus. Prof Deya Gonzalez’s and Prof Steve Conlan’s work has recently been published in the Journal for Immunotherapy of Cancer.

Uterine cancer is the most common female reproductive cancer and eighth most common cause of death by cancer in the UK. The researchers, who are based in the Medical School’s Reproductive Biology and Gynaecological Oncology group, have worked closely with partners in order to find new treatments for this condition.

The team discovered that a protein called ‘RAGE’ is found in excess in cancer cells in the uterus. Higher levels of this protein are associated with poor patient survival. As a result, the team have developed a new treatment that targets the protein using a type of drug called an Antibody Drug Conjugate (ADC).

ADCs are a type of cancer medicine that make antibodies target specific proteins expressed in cancers. In this case, the antibody has been developed to specifically bind to the RAGE protein. After binding to RAGE, the antibody will enter the cancer cell and release a toxin, causing the cell to die. The healthy cells in the body do not express high levels of the RAGE protein and are therefore unaffected by the treatment, which minimises nasty side-effects.

Swansea University have worked closely with Swansea Bay and Cwm Taf University Health Boards, the Wales Cancer Research Centre, the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute, GE Healthcare, ADC Biotechnology and Axis Bio. The team hope that the new findings could lead to a new treatment option for uterine cancer patients.

Professor Deya Gonzalez, principal investigator at Swansea University said: “The combined efforts of all the partners involved in this research has led to the development of a new substance that has the potential to effectively treat cancer of the uterus with minimum side-effects. We are now focusing on further development of the RAGE-ADC with the hope of it reaching patients who desperately need a new treatment option”.

The work carried out on RAGE has been part of a bigger research project called The Cluster for Epigenetics and ADC Therapeutics (CEAT). The aim of CEAT is to tackle gynaecological cancer development and progression.

Professor Steve Conlan, Head of Enterprise and Innovation in Swansea University’s Medical School and Strategic Director of CEAT, said: “The development of new and advanced therapeutics, for example our RAGE-ADC, highlights the importance of industrial, academic and NHS collaborations such as CEAT. Together with our partners we continue to further develop this and other ADCs, and are always keen to identify new industrial collaborations to strengthen our research. Also, working with AgorIP at Swansea University to secure our IP, initially through the US patent, and creating a commercialisation strategy, has been very important.”