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Pharmaceutical Company Options Rights to DU Professor’s Cancer-Fighting Compounds, Technology

The technology of a Duquesne University professor that shows promise in improving cancer drug therapies has been optioned to Delphian Pharmaceuticals, a San Francisco biotech company.

The compounds developed by Dr. Aleem Gangjee, Distinguished Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at Duquesne, have a two-pronged approach. These compounds not only battle cancer cells that other drugs have been unable to combat, but make formerly drug-resistant tumors susceptible, once again, to other cancer-fighting medicines.

Because the developing resistance to previously effective cancer chemotherapeutic agents is a major cause of death in cancer patients, new and more effective drugs are needed to treat patients with drug-resistant tumors.

“My group has long been interested in developing dual-acting anti-cancer agents to enhance the effectiveness of cancer therapies,” Gangjee said. “We have been successful in doing this with anti-folates, with anti-angiogenic agents and now, with these anti-mitotic agents. We hope that this will start a new era in cancer research and, hopefully, in cancer treatment.”

Information on the compounds was reported in the June 14 online version of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry by Gangjee and Dr. Charles D. Smith at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Detailed studies of the compounds discovered by Gangjee show that like commonly used Taxol and Vincristine, these compounds target tubulin, which is needed for cancer cells to migrate and survive. However, unlike the existing drugs, the Duquesne compounds are not expelled by the cancer tumor’s protective mechanism, a protein pump such a P-glycoprotein. Drug resistance develops because of this protective mechanism.

Unexpectedly, it was discovered that the Duquesne compounds not only remain within the cells to fight the cancer tumor, but that they inactivate P-glycoprotein. With this rare dual action, the Duquesne compounds not only battle cancer on their own merits but restore the tumor’s sensitivity to the other commonly used cancer drugs so that drugs can be used in tandem, to the greater benefit of the patient.

“It is a pleasure to work with Dr. Gangjee and Duquesne in developing their platform of novel and promising therapeutic agents,” said Gary Hooper, chief executive officer of Delphian Pharmaceuticals.

Under the arrangement, Duquesne retains patents for the compounds, while Delphian holds rights to use the technology and compounds.

Delphian president and founder Dr. Kumar Gadamasetti, himself a medicinal and pharmaceutical drug development chemist, noted, “Duquesne has one of the finest medicinal chemistry programs in the country.”

Delphian Pharmaceuticals
Delphian Pharmaceuticals is a startup company focusing on cancer and located in the San Francisco Bay area. Contact information: delphianpharma@aol.com; 650.270.8471.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.