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The Most Important Pill in the World

Evan Berman

Staff Writer


For hundreds of years, we have been researching to discover a cure for one of the deadliest diseases on our planet, cancer. Unfortunately, countless hours of research and clinical trials have not yet led us to a cure, and we are still fighting this terrible disease. However, a new drug in the form of a pill, dubbed AOH1996, has shown promise.

AOH1996 was discovered by Professor Linda Malkas and her team at their research center City of Hope, who used computer modeling to simulate molecular interactions with a certain protein involved with DNA replication. This protein, a proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), allows for DNA to replicate, which also allows for tumors to grow and spread. AOH1996 targets the PCNA in cancer cells, and recognizes them based on their differences from the PCNA in healthy cells. "PCNA is like a major airline terminal hub containing multiple plane gates. Data suggests PCNA is uniquely altered in cancer cells, and this fact allowed us to design a drug that targeted only the form of PCNA in cancer cells. Our cancer-killing pill is like a snowstorm that closes a key airline hub, shutting down all flights in and out only in planes carrying cancer cells," said Malkas in a statement. AOH1996 kills by disrupting how cancerous cells produce and prevents damaged DNA from traveling throughout the body, and has been found useful while treating breast, prostate, brain, ovarian, cervical, skin, and lung cancers. "No one has ever targeted PCNA as a therapeutic because it was viewed as 'undruggable,' but clearly City of Hope was able to develop an investigational medicine for a challenging protein target," said Long Gu, lead author of the study. While many are hopeful, doctors remain cautious and remind people not to get their hopes up. Dr. Tim Larson, Director of Research at Minnesota Oncology, said, "A lot of things look good in the lab. We’ve cured a lot of mice with cancer. But some of these same cures - when it came time to test in humans - they didn’t result in the same success." The phase one clinical trial will remain running, and the drug will move on to be tested in humans.

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