VHIR´s Health Innovation Contest 2015: first place goes to Myc Inhibitory Peptide

Barcelona, 17 July 2015. – Last week, 10 July, marked the second Vall d´Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) Health Innovation Contest, in which all hospitals belonging to the Catalan Institute of Health (ICS), as well as the Carlos III Institute of Health (ISCIII)-accredited research centers throughout Cataluña went head to head to compete for the top slots.

First place in the category Innovation in Biomedical Research went to VHIO´s Mouse Models of Cancer Therapies Group — subsequently awarded prize money worth 5000 EUR for research aimed at ´Pushing Myc Inhibition to the Clinic Using Cell Penetrating Peptides´, led by the group´s Principal Investigator and ICREA Professor, Laura Soucek.

The project ultimately promises a novel therapeutic avenue for cancer patients through interfering with the Myc protein which is implicated in the development of many different tumors through aberrant regulation of cellular processes such as proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis.

The potential of the Myc inhibitor, Omomyc, to hijack Myc and prevent it from spreading its havoc has already been evidenced by the group at preclinical level across a variety of tumor types. Even prior to the most recent insights reported by VHIO´s Mouse Models of Cancer Therapies Group, Laura´s early, preliminary studies carried out at Gerard Evan´s lab, UCSF (San Francisco, CA), validated Omomyc´s efficacy in skin, lung, and pancreatic cancer in 2004, 2008, and 2011 respectively.

Laura´s lab at VHIO continued to extend these studies, raising the bar yet higher. In 2013 they succeeded in eradicating lung tumors in transgenic mice – results of which were published in the prestigious journal Genes & Development. The strategy consisted of expressing Omomyc, a Myc inhibitor designed by Laura, in transgenic mouse models. They also confirmed that the tumors did not develop any resistance, side effects were mild and completely reversible, and that almost all initial tumors were eliminated, even in advanced disease. These results therefore confirmed Myc as a promising target for novel anti-cancer therapies.

Last year, in 2014, further studies also validated Myc inhibition as an effective therapeutic strategy against glioma, the most aggressive of all brain tumors that both dodges and outsmarts current anti-cancer therapies. Representing one next step closer to effectively pushing Myc inhibition to the clinic, the group not only continued to show the efficacy of Myc inhibition across different tumors, but also demonstrated the same success in human tumors using a technique that transfers human cancer cells to immunodeficient mice. These results, published in the highly regarded scientific title, Nature Communications, were the very first to report the use of Omomyc in human tumor specimens and also confirmed that Myc inhibition is effective against the tumor once it has developed, acts against tumor initiating cells, and prevents them from dividing, proliferating and forming the tumor again.

The group now has exciting data showing that the Omomyc peptide recapitulates the previous results using Omomyc as a genetic inhibitor. Hopes are therefore high that it will ultimately enter the clinic and join the current arsenal of targeted therapies against cancer.

It is thanks to the successes marked to-date and this well-founded optimism that Laura and her group ranked top in VHIR´s Innovation in Biomedical Research quest to award the best.

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For more information please contact Amanda Wren, Director of Communications, the Vall d´Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO), Email:awren@vhio.net, Tel: +34 695207886.

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