Dr Mayur Yergeri, Associate Dean and Professor, SPPSPTM, SVKM’s NMIMS-Deemed to be University, has developed a new series of cancer molecules and the research findings have not shown any toxicity on normal cells. To put these drugs into clinical trials, he is trying to procure more funds from private including venture capitalists. Dr Yergeri shares the research outcomes and his plans for molecules commercialisation
Tell us about the research findings of the new series of cancer molecules? How advanced will these molecules be? Where have these research papers published?
I am one of the few scientists in the world who has worked on a chemical moiety called Acridone. I have been working on this molecule for more than two decades. From our studies, we have come to know that these molecules are found to be cytotoxic in breast cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer cell lines whereas the drugs are highly cytotoxic in glioma cell lines. The results have proved that these molecules which are lipophilic have shown 100 times more cytotoxicity than the presently used drug Temozolomide. Some of the results have been published in the prestigious European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry recently.
How can new drug molecules work effectively by combining with other cancer drugs?
We have carried out studies of combining these drugs with Doxorubicin and studies have shown that these drugs have been found to exhibit synergism and they increase the cytotoxicity by almost 10 times in breast cancer cell lines. The concentration of molecules used for this study was based on IC25 concentration. We found these molecules to be very potent in sensitive breast cancer cell lines as well as in resistance cell lines also. So, I can say that these molecules can potentiate the activity of presently used drug Doxorubicin.
Will AC2, AC7 and AC26 be developed as potent anti-cancer molecules for chemotherapy for the treatment of glioma?
Definitely, these molecules have been found to be highly cytotoxic in sensitive U87 glioma cell lines and the resistant T-98 glioma cell lines. The molecules have shown 100 times more cytotoxicity than the presently used drug Temozolomide and is the only drug available for treatment of glioma. Every year four people in two lakh population are affected from glioma. These molecules can be future block buster drugs for the treatment of glioma. Moreover, they will be from India.
I am desperately trying to commercialise these molecules towards clinical studies and trying to have my own start up for taking these molecules towards phase I clinical studies. I have received some funding but it is not enough. I am trying to attract more funding and I am also open to funds from venture capitalists. I want these molecules to be taken towards clinical side as early as possible so that the benefits for the treatment of glioma is given to patients. As India lags behind in new drug discovery, bringing these molecules into the market and over riding the regulatory norms will be a huge challenge for me.
Tell us about the partnership with Dr GJ Peters of VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, Netherlands. How is the partnership progressing?
I know Dr GJ Peters for more than 10 years and I have been collaborating with him since 2006. I worked with him as a BOYSCAST Fellow (Postdoc) for a year and we published more than five research papers in highly reputed medicinal chemistry and cancer journals. Dr GJ Peters is one of the few scientists in the world who has worked on reversing drug resistance in cancer cells and it was path breaking for me to know so many things in treatment of cancer, especially related to treatment of drug resistance in cancer. This field needs high support as people die of cancer due to drug resistance as the drugs fail to kill the cancer cells. I also had the opportunity to use so many new cancer related equipment in his lab.
I was lucky as I got another opportunity to work with him as a collaborator on a sabbatical from 2015 to 2016 and the studies I carried out during this time and the major outcome being these hit molecules. I am thankful to him for hosting me for a year. We did carry out a lot of mechanistic studies also which we will publishing soon in another medicinal chemistry based journal.
Which type of cancer cells are likely to be destroyed? Do these molecules destroy good cells?
As discussed earlier that the molecules are cytotoxic against breast cancer, lung cancer, ovarian but highly potent against glioma cell lines as these drugs were designed keeping in view the lipophilic character and these drugs are able to cross the blood brain barrier and the results have shown that these molecules can future block buster drugs for the treatment of glioma. These molecules have been tested on normal cells to the level 75 µM and they have not showed any toxicity on normal cells.
In which form will these molecules be available for treatment? Are there any side effects from these molecules?
I have not worked on formulations aspects as yet so I can’t comment on these aspects. As I have been funded by the Department of Health Research, I will try to check the side effects of these molecules as the funding has been on these aspects. We will come to know the actual side effects only after testing these molecules in patients. I expect the same kind of side effects as other anti-cancer drugs being used clinically.
Are you working on any other research molecule as well?
Right now I am focussing on these molecules for taking them towards clinical side and trying to find funding for my start up and I have approached various funding agencies, I hope I will be funded for this.
I am also working on nano formulations which are being exploited for treatment of lung cancer and I am on the verge of filing patents for these products.