UC San Diego tapped for GSK DPAc collaboration

The organizations will work together on a project to treat leukemia and other diseases by the elimination of cancer stem cells

Kelsey Kaustinen
SAN DIEGO—Cancer stem cells, much like cancer's ability to hide itself from the immune system, represent one of the key reasons cancer can be so hard to eradicate. These cells can go dormant to evade chemotherapy, then activate again at a later time, resulting in treatment resistance and relapse.
 
But despite the difficulty of targeting this subset of cells, some teams are facing the challenge head on. Scientists from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, Moores Cancer Center and GlaxoSmithKline have struck up a collaboration focused on a bench-to-bedside project to treat leukemia and other diseases by targeting and eliminating cancer stem cells.
 
The team will work together for the discovery and development of a new therapeutic compound that can inhibit RNA editing. Dr. Catriona Jamieson, associate professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Regenerative Medicine at UC San Diego, and her group have demonstrated that in chronic myeloid leukemia and other blood cancers, uncontrolled RNA editing helps cancer stem cells self-renew, which in turn creates more malignant cells.
 
“The problem with leukemia is that in many cases while we can control the symptoms of disease, we can’t completely eradicate it because current therapies don’t block cancer stem cell self-renewal. Enhanced RNA editing is like a cancer stem cell engine, and with this collaboration we want to turn that engine off,” said Jamieson, who is also deputy director of the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center and director of stem cell research at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. “We’re very fortunate to have this opportunity to work completely in step with a highly adept, dynamic company to take the RNA editing target idea from design to delivery of a new therapy that may prevent cancer relapse.”
 
This collaboration is part of GlaxoSmithKline's Discovery Partnerships with Academia (DPAc) program, which was launched as an independent unit in 2010. The goal of DPAc is to advance promising research into drug discovery and development, in the hopes of bringing new treatments to patients. Each project is supported by a team, with the academic researchers and GSK scientists sharing data and collaborating. Jamieson will lead the UC San Diego team in this project.
 
“The GSK DPAc program is highly selective and works to identify the best academics with the best targets for partnership,” Dr. Carolyn Buser-Doepner, vice present and global head of DPAc at GSK, commented in a press release. “The UC San Diego collaboration represents several firsts for the DPAc team at GSK — it is our first target in the emerging area of RNA editing and it is our first bench-to-bedside DPAc collaboration with a California university. Furthermore, Dr. Jamieson is an ideal collaborator with deep target and disease expertise, a highly productive preclinical research team with access to clinical samples and the demonstrated ability to translate studies into the clinic.”
 
“Groundbreaking research on the basic behavior of stem cells — during human development and in the pathology of disease — has long been one of our strengths at UC San Diego,” said Dr. Lawrence Goldstein, director of the Stem Cell Program, scientific director of the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine and director of the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center. “Now, those fundamental studies are paying off, as we begin to apply that information in the development of new therapies.”
 
 
SOURCE: UCSD press release

Kelsey Kaustinen

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