New Funding to Develop Innovative Treatments for Pancreatic Cancer and Anticancer Therapeutics – $2 Million from The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research!

The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research has unveiled the latest round of recipients of its Drug Discovery Award – an ambitious program designed to fast-track the process of transforming groundbreaking scientific discoveries into life-saving cancer treatments. Launched in 2020, the Drug Discovery Awards are dedicated to supporting bold and ambitious research that aims to bridge the gap between discovering promising treatments and bringing them to fruition. Over the next five years, the awards will provide up to $25M in funding to sustainable, high-risk, high-reward projects that can make a real difference in the fight against cancer.

The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research has selected two innovative drug discovery projects to receive more than $2 million in funding. These projects will help to develop new treatments and therapies to battle cancer and other diseases. This investment will provide an invaluable resource to researchers and pave the way for potential future breakthroughs.

Identifying small molecule inhibitors of SLC38A2/SNAT2 to treat pancreatic cancer

Alec Kimmelman, MD, PhD, and Seth Parker, PhD, are spearheading an ambitious research effort to uncover molecules that can inhibit SLC38A2, an amino acid transporter that plays a key role in the development and growth of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is a notoriously lethal form of cancer, with a dismal 5-year survival rate of ~10%. Kimmelman and Parker’s discoveries regarding SLC38A2 may provide a glimmer of hope for those with this diagnosis, as the identification of inhibitors could lead to the development of more effective therapies. Through a screening campaign, the team hopes to uncover potential inhibitors of SLC38A2, which will bring them one step closer to bringing these novel treatments to clinical trials.

The limited treatment options for patients with pancreatic cancer make discoveries of novel targets all the more exciting. The generous support from The Mark Foundation will enable us to make strides towards our shared goal of improving patient care. With this support, we are eager to develop upon our initial findings and continue our research.

Developing CDK11B inhibitors as a novel anti-cancer strategy

Led by the pioneering minds of Jason Sheltzer, PhD from Yale University, and Jane Endicott, PhD from Newcastle University, a team of scientists is pushing the boundaries of cancer treatment with their innovative discovery of a selective CDK11 inhibitor. CDK11, a member of the cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) family, is a crucial enzyme involved in cell cycle progression and tumor proliferation in many cancers. Despite its potential as an effective treatment, it has been difficult to inhibit in a selective manner, making drug development a challenge. But Sheltzer and his team have identified a compound that can specifically target CDK11, marking an important breakthrough in its therapeutic potential. Now, they are continuing their work to gain an even deeper understanding of CDK11 biology and pave the way for the development of a first-in-class CDK11 inhibitor for patient testing.

Thanks to The Mark Foundation, our groundbreaking research on deconvoluting the true mechanisms of action of incompletely characterized compounds has given us an exciting opportunity to delve into the functional role of CDK11 and assess its potential as a cancer therapy target! Our novel tools are allowing us to study CDK11 biology in an unprecedented way, giving us a unique chance to uncover new insights.

The Mark Foundation Drug Discovery Award program is a unique opportunity for innovative cancer research projects that are not being supported by traditional drug companies or governmental funding programs. With the ability to take risks on promising ideas, The Mark Foundation is helping to bridge the gap in academic research and provide an avenue for bold new cancer drug discoveries. Ryan Schoenfeld, CEO of The Mark Foundation, says, “We have the flexibility to take risks earlier on promising, innovative ideas and approach cancer research funding on a broader scale.”

The Mark Foundation not only provides funding to its grantees, but also offers scientific and technical guidance to help accelerate their ideas into the clinic. With access to state-of-the-art drug discovery and development capabilities, as well as the expertise of highly accomplished industry advisors and consultants, The Mark Foundation is committed to ensuring that its grantees have the tools they need to achieve success. Through its experienced network of contract research organizations and other industry partners, The Mark Foundation is dedicated to creating an environment that is conducive to innovation and progress.

Since its launch in 2020, the Drug Discovery Award program has awarded over $15 million in funding for ambitious drug discovery projects. These awards are helping to make groundbreaking advances in the field of drug development, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in medicine and healthcare. With this investment, we are witnessing a revolution in drug discovery that has the potential to revolutionize the way we treat diseases.

Dr. Aaron Schimmer and his team at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, Canada have made a groundbreaking discovery that could revolutionize the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). They have identified the mitochondrial proteasome (ClpP) as a promising new target for AML, and are actively working to develop a series of inhibitors to target this enzyme. While there are already FDA-approved drugs that target the cytoplasmic proteasome for the treatment of multiple myeloma, this is the first time that an inhibitor for the mitochondrial proteasome ClpP has been identified. So far, their studies have shown that inhibiting ClpP in AML cell lines with high ClpP expression kills the cells both in vitro and in mouse models, making this a potentially game-changing therapy for the disease.

Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are revolutionizing the treatment of lung cancer with a novel EGFR inhibitor. Led by Michael Eck, MD, PhD, and Pasi Jänne, MD, PhD, the team has identified and optimized a number of novel chemical series that are more effective than existing kinase inhibitors. This project will generate the data needed to select a clinical candidate and advance it through IND-enabling toxicology studies, leading to a phase I clinical study in lung cancer patients. With this groundbreaking work, the team is poised to dramatically improve patient outcomes and revolutionize the treatment of this deadly disease.

Philip Jones and his team at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Institute for Applied Cancer Science (IACS) have made a breakthrough in the fight against leukemia. They have discovered the first inhibitor of the transcriptional co-activator CBP/p300, which has been linked to the development of cancer and other diseases. This inhibitor has been found to be highly selective and will now undergo preclinical development. IND-enabling studies are currently being conducted in order to bring this potential life-saving treatment to the clinical setting.

Dr. Craig Crews and his team at Yale School of Medicine are on a mission to revolutionize the treatment of chordoma, a rare cancer of the spine and skull base. Thanks to a Therapeutic Innovation Award jointly granted by The Mark Foundation and the Chordoma Foundation in 2018, they have successfully developed a targeted protein degradation approach to treat this devastating disease. Now, they are continuing their work to refine and perfect their groundbreaking approach.

Sara Buhrlage and her team at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are working on an innovative inhibitor of the USP7 enzyme to treat Ewing sarcoma, a rare cancer affecting children and young adults. USP7 is a deubiquitinating enzyme, a key player in diseases like cancer, and Buhrlage’s lab has discovered a powerful and precise series of USP7 inhibitors that could potentially provide new treatment options for this heartbreaking childhood cancer. With further optimization, these inhibitors could bring hope to those affected by this devastating disease.

Schoenfeld expressed his enthusiasm for the increasing number of projects that his company is developing to create novel therapeutics for cancer patients in need of new treatments. He remarked that these projects have the potential to bring about meaningful changes for these individuals, and that the program will continue to expand to include new therapeutic modalities, targets, and indications.

About The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research

The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research is revolutionizing the way we prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer. Since 2017, we have awarded over $190 million in grants to support pioneering research and drug discovery. Now, in 2022, we have received an additional $500 million commitment to fuel the next decade of progress in cancer research. We are also investing in oncology companies to develop novel therapeutics and diagnostics, providing support throughout the life cycle of projects to ensure the best chance of success in improving the lives of cancer patients. Join us in this mission to transform cancer care and save lives.

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