top of page

Groundbreaking chemical compounds stop active cancer cells, study finds

Researchers have discovered chemical compounds capable of halting active cancer cells, termed tool molecules. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

A collaborative effort between the University of Dundee’s Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) and Queen Mary University of London has discovered chemical compounds capable of halting active cancer cells, termed tool molecules.

These molecules induce a state of pro-senescence in tumor cells, akin to a sleep-like condition where they cease to divide or spur tumor growth.


The research focused on basal-like breast cancer (BLBC), a particularly challenging form of the disease. Professor Cleo Bishop, leading a team funded by Barts Charity and serving as Professor of Senescence at Queen Mary University of London, spearheaded the exploration into forcing BLBC cells into pro-senescence.

Members of the Drug Discovery Unit, University of Dundee. (CREDIT: University of Dundee)

Collaborating with researchers at the University of Dundee’s Drug Discovery Unit, they developed tool molecules aimed at promoting senescence within these cells.


Professor Bishop emphasized the significance of this approach: “Pro-senescence therapies activate a stable cell cycle arrest halting tumor growth, trigger anti-tumor immune responses, and expose cancers to novel treatment regimes called senolytics.”

This methodology presents a potential breakthrough in treating BLBC, a cancer type with limited therapeutic targets and a dire prognosis.


Related Stories


The next phase involves utilizing senolytic drugs, a second group of tool molecules, to eliminate the pro-senescent cancer cells. These drugs may also render the cancer cells visible to the body's immune system, opening further therapeutic avenues.

Currently, efforts are underway to develop drug treatments for delivering the second punch of cell elimination. These endeavors are taking place independently of the initial research collaboration.


The University of Dundee recently inked a significant five-year agreement with ValiRx, a pharmaceutical company specializing in early-stage cancer therapeutics and women’s health.

Members of the Drug Discovery Unit, University of Dundee. (CREDIT: University of Dundee)

Under this partnership, the pro-senescent tool molecules will undergo a rigorous 12-month evaluation phase. If successful, this could lead to the establishment of a new company through a joint venture involving all three parties.


Dr. Charlotte Green, Head of Business Development at the University of Dundee’s Drug Discovery Unit, expressed optimism about the project's advancement: “The one-two punch approach has gained lots of interest in recent years but currently there is no clinical precedent, by moving the project forward with ValiRx we are leading the way in translating the research to the clinic.”

Dr. Suzy Dilly, CEO of ValiRx, praised the strength of the research facilities at Dundee and expressed confidence in the potential of the evaluation agreement: “The strength of the DDU and research facilities at Dundee are very impressive, and having reviewed multiple projects from teams there over the past year, we believe that this evaluation agreement will be the first of a series of new projects that can be brought into our pipeline.”


The BLBC subcategory of breast cancer is thought to account for around 8-22% of all cases globally, with the highest BLBC incidence in women from Southern Asian and Black ethnic groups.


It has an early onset of under 50-years-old and, while breast cancer deaths continue to fall, women with BLBC have the poorest prognosis.

For women in the UK, breast cancer accounts 31% of all new cases (CRUK), with breast cancer deaths in England more common in females living in the most deprived areas.

For more science news stories check out our New Innovations section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


Like these kind of feel good stories? Get the Brighter Side of News' newsletter.



Most Recent Stories

bottom of page