By | October 29, 2010 12:00 am

A promising cancer-fighting compound could be a year away from clinical trials thanks to a licensing agreement announced this month between the UCF College of Medicine and Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.

Dr. James Turkson, associate professor at the College of Medicine’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences and a team at Moffitt Cancer Center co-developed GLG-302, a compound that has been shown to prevent the uncontrolled activity of the STAT3 protein. This protein, when hyperactive, has been implicated in human cancer, particularly breast cancer.

UCF and Moffitt signed an agreement with GLG Pharma, LLC to take the compound to the next level of development and perhaps someday to use it against a variety of cancers, including breast cancer. Under the licensing agreement, GLG Pharma, an early-stage Florida biotechnology company founded to develop personalized therapies for cancer patients, obtained the exclusive worldwide rights to the compound.

Dr. Pappachan Kolattukudy, director of the Burnett school, said the agreement underscores the value of research. “Our scientists work diligently toward cures for many of the world’s deadliest diseases,” he said. “This agreement will help bring some of that work to bear on one of the world’s most prolific killers.”

Dr. Turkson’s research has found that in addition to cancer cells, hyperactivated STAT3 protein is also involved in immune cells. “The body’s immune system is tricked by the abnormally active STAT3 into thinking the tumor cells are harmless,” he said. “Our compound goes after STAT3, stripping away its power.”

Moffitt officials said the compound is significant.

“Persistently activated STAT3 is a major contributor to human cancer; validating its usefulness as a cancer therapeutic target in collaboration with GLG will be a major milestone,” said Said Sebti, chair of the Drug Discovery Department at Moffitt and one of the co-developers of GLG-302 compound.

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