Target activated therapeutics: a new strategy for monitoring and treating breast cancer

Start Year: 2010
Finish Year: 2012
Chief Investigator: Dr Matthew Todd
Grant Type: Novel Concept Awards
Institution: University of Sydney

Early detection and effective treatment of breast cancer are vital to management of breast cancer. These are achievable if we have molecular tools that are sensitive and selective. This project aims to develop a new class of agent for imaging and treating breast cancer.

Specialised molecules have been built that become activated only once they are inside breast cancer cells, switched ‘on’ by binding to their target receptor. Metal complexes can be powerful drugs, but often lack sensitivity due to nonspecific interactions with biological molecules. To achieve sensitivity we need a new kind of metal complex that is inactive under standard physiological conditions but activated once bound to a specific biomolecule: a target-activated metal complex.

Dr Todd and his colleagues have recently designed the first such complexes and validated them in model systems. The team now hope to adapt the prototype to incorporate tags that selectively bind to the oestrogen receptor (ER), a protein that is over-active in many breast cancer cells. As complexes bind to the ER, a change in the metal complex occurs, activating it and unleashing destructive reactivity to selectively kill the cancer cell: a target activated therapeutic.