Developing a pioneering new drug and launching it into clinical trials

What you need to know

  • Advanced prostate cancer can initially be controlled with hormone therapies, but these eventually stop working.
  • In this study, Professor Simon MacKay wants to create a new drug to help men with hormone resistant cancer live longer.
  • Professor MacKay has developed a chemical which blocks IKK alpha, a protein that helps prostate cancer grow, spread and become resistant to treatments. Now, he wants to work towards transforming this chemical into a drug that can be tested in men with advanced disease.
Thanks to the funding from Prostate Cancer UK, we now have the chance to bring this treatment one step closer to clinical trials. After all this time, I’d be over the moon if I could make that difference to men affected by prostate cancer.
Professor Simon MacKay

An all-new drug target

New treatments for prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body are urgently needed. Hormone therapies can control the disease for a while, but they eventually stop working as the cancer becomes resistant to their effects.

For the last decade, Professor Simon MacKay has been developing a chemical that could become a pioneering new treatment for advanced prostate cancer. The target of this chemical is a protein called IKK alpha, which is involved in how prostate cancer grows, how it evolves into an advanced form of the disease, and how it becomes resistant to treatments.

With support from Prostate Cancer UK, Professor Mackay has shown this chemical effectively blocks IKK alpha and slows the growth of advanced prostate cancer. He now wants to refine it into something that could be used as a new drug for men with advanced disease, which could kill their cancer and help them respond to other treatments for longer.

Making the final touches

Although Professor MacKay’s chemical disables IKK alpha, it’s removed from the blood stream too quickly to have a long-lasting effect in the body. In this study, he plans to change the structure of the chemical so that it stays in the blood stream for longer. These tweaks will help the chemical become more ‘drug-like’, making sure it gets to where it needs to go and effectively switches off IKK alpha in all cancer cells in the body.

By tweaking the chemical in this way, Professor MacKay is confident he will create a drug that has the potential to halt cancer growth, and stop resistance from developing.

Next stop: clinical trials

By the end of the project, Professor MacKay hopes to have developed an IKK alpha-blocking drug that is effective in different types of prostate cancer. Working with Professor David Waugh from the Queensland University of Technology, this will then inform the next phase of research which will focus on identifying the men most likely to benefit from this type of approach. This will hopefully lead to clinical trials and, eventually, new medicines for men with advanced disease, prolonging and even restoring sensitivity to treatments they’ve become resistant to, and ultimately improving the length and quality of thousands of men’s lives.  

Grant information

Reference - RIA18-ST2-013
Researcher -
 Professor Simon MacKay
Institution - University of Strathclyde
 - £553,255.00