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Scientists from the Research Biology and Reproductive Biology Group carry out uterine cancer cell analysis at Swansea University’s Centre for Nanohealth.

Swansea University scientists’ hard work in the fight against endometrial cancer has seen them being granted a US patent for pioneering new therapy.

Professor Deya Gonzalez and Professor Steve Conlan, of Swansea University Medical School’s Reproductive Biology and Gynaecological Oncology group, developed a method of treating gynaecological cancer which it is hoped will minimise side effects for patients. 

Their work on the discovery and the pre-clinical development of this new targeted therapeutic 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. Swansea University has worked closely with Swansea Bay and Cwm Taf University Health Boards, Welsh Cancer Research Centre, European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute, GE Healthcare, ADC biotechnology and Axis Bio in order to find new treatments for this condition.

Working in collaboration, the team discovered that a protein named RAGE is over-expressed in uterine cancer cells and higher levels of RAGE are associated with poor patient survival. As a result, the team developed a novel treatment that targets the RAGE protein using an antibody drug conjugate (ADC).

ADCs are a powerful class of therapeutics in medical oncology, where antibodies that target specific proteins expressed in cancers, are coupled with cytotoxic agents. 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 its cytotoxic payload 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.

The team hopes that the new findings could lead to a new treatment option for uterine cancer patients.

Professor 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 therapeutic agent that has the potential to effectively treat endometrial cancer 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 advance a group of novel epigenetic drugs and ADCs using technological approaches to tackle gynaecological cancer development and progression.

Professor 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 CEAT.

“Together with our partners we continue aim to further develop this and other ADCs, and are always keen to identify new industrial collaborations to bring additional strengths to our therapeutic development pipeline. 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.”

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