Public Release: 

Promising advance in breast cancer research

VCU Massey Cancer Center to develop human study

Virginia Commonwealth University

Two new drugs, when combined, killed up to 75 percent of breast cancer tumor cells in mice and suppressed the regrowth of tumors, according to researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center.

The findings, published online Nov. 14 in the journal Cancer Biology and Therapy, may also have implications for prostate cancer, lymphoma, myeloma and other hematologic cancers.

Paul Dent, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry and radiation oncology, led the team. This new study translates its 2002 research that showed early success in the lab and more recently was tested in animals.

In this new study, researchers combined two novel drugs, UCN-01 and a MEK 1/2 inhibitor, which are known to inhibit protein kinases, part of tumor survival signaling pathways.

"In addition to potently inhibiting cells and suppressing tumor growth, these drugs are also part of a modern class of drugs that are less toxic to non-cancerous cells," said Dent. "We are eager to move these exciting findings from the labs to patients."

When studied separately, the drugs only killed a small percent of the cells to which they were exposed. Combined, however, the result was quite startling.

"Within five days, we saw profound tumor cell death," Dent said. "Three researchers in the group operated the same studies independently, and they all saw very similar results."


The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Dent holds the Universal Corp. Distinguished Professorship in Cancer Cell Signalling.

The first author on the paper was William Hawkins, M.S., a VCU research specialist with appointments in biochemistry, anatomy and neurobiology.

To view the abstract and access the full study, visit

About the VCU Massey Cancer Center
The VCU Massey Cancer Center, one of 60 National Cancer Institute-designated research institutions, is VCU's focal point for basic and clinical cancer research, education, prevention and cancer health care. Since 1975, Massey has served as an internationally recognized center of excellence. Its 175 doctors and researchers are dedicated to improving the quality of human life by developing effective means to prevent, control and ultimately to cure cancer. Visit Massey online at

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