Wellcome Trust Seeding Drug Discovery scheme has granted a late-stage funding to Queen’s University Belfast, Ireland and UK-based Domainex to advance therapeutic candidate molecules into clinical evaluation to treat non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC).

The cell death regulatory protein FLIP is considered to be a major regulator of tumour cell survival that promotes tumour growth and resistance to standard therapies.

The funding will allow the collaborators to enhance the maximisation and early development of first-in-class small molecule inhibitors that block the pro-survival functions of FLIP.

Queen’s University Belfast Dr Daniel Longley said: "Our work at Queen’s has demonstrated that FLIP is frequently over expressed in non-small cell lung cancer and other cancers, and that this promotes resistance to chemotherapy.

"The additional funding secured from the Wellcome Trust is a clear endorsement of the strength of the integrated drug discovery platform of Domainex to deliver compounds."

"More recently, we have found that FLIP also promotes resistance to radiotherapy. Targeting FLIP directly is extremely challenging, however, by combining our understanding of the biology of FLIP with the expertise of the team at Domainex, we have now developed first-in-class, small-molecule FLIP inhibitors that this award from the Wellcome Trust will enable us to take all the way into clinical evaluation in patients."

The small molecule inhibitors have exhibited efficacy in pre-clinical models of NSCLC, which is a disease that represents around 90%of all lung cancers diagnosed, as well as marks the highest rate of deaths caused by cancer across the globe.

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Domainex research director Trevor Perrior said: "The additional funding secured from the Wellcome Trust is a clear endorsement of the strength of the integrated drug discovery platform of Domainex to deliver compounds, with the potential to provide life-changing treatments for serious diseases."

This next phase of partnership will ensure the completion of pre-clinical studies and progression of the inhibitors in human phase one clinical evaluation, following regulatory approval.

Image: Queen’s University and Domainex collaborate to advance the treatment of non-small cell lung carcinoma. Photo: courtesy of Nephron.