Yale cancer center to test cervical cancer prevention drug: NCI grant funds research

(NEW HAVEN) -- The Yale Cancer Center has been selected by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to conduct a clinical trial of a new drug designed to suppress infections by the human papilloma virus (HPV) so as to prevent the development of cervical cancer.

David Austin, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry at Yale University, first predicted on the basis of studies with colleague Rolf Loewe, Ph.D. that certain members of the indole family of compounds would suppress HPV infections. After learning that indole 3 carbinole was already under investigation by the NCI for the prevention of other cancers, he proposed that the compound be tested in preventing cervical cancer. The drug will be evaluated in a multi-institutional phase III trial of 200 people with chronic, persistent genital HPV infections, which place them at risk of cervical or anal cancer. A $1.3 million grant from the NCI will fund the clinical research study.

Genital HPV is widespread among the general population. While in most cases, the infection is cleared automatically by the body's immune system, in a small percentage of cases, it becomes persistent and requires surgical removal of the abnormal cells. Indole 3 carbinol was designed specifically to clear chronic HPV infection, and prevent cervical cancer without the need for surgery.

Albert Deissroth, associate director of clinical research at the Yale Cancer Center, worked with Austin in developing the new compound. "This is an entirely new way of making drugs, based on the molecular structure of cancer-causing genes/proteins," he said. "With the information we are now able to obtain on the cellular level, we can design drugs that are targeted specifically toward the basic defect or change in cancer cells that makes them spin out of control."

Cancer-related viruses such as Epstein Barr or HPV produce oncoproteins, which kick off the process of reproduction. By inhibiting the proteins, the tumor cells stop replicating.

Contact: Ilene Lefland
Yale University

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