170330 ONJCRI 0294 edit

Cancer Therapeutics Development Group

Group overview

The Cancer Therapeutics Development Group aims to identify cellular targets for the development of novel cancer treatments. We focus on understanding the cellular renewal processes during chronic inflammation and their contribution to cancer development.

Our overall research aim is to identify targetable inflammatory pathways within the tumour microenvironment using preclinical gastric and colon cancer models. In concert with studying which inflammatory factors promote the growth of these cancers, we are investigating how the microbiome influences cancer development. New knowledge generated from our experiments will ultimately provide a starting point from which we can develop new treatments that are designed to improve the gut microbiome and thus enhance our body's response to diseases such as cancer.

A better understanding of the interactions between host and commensal microbiota is required in order to maximise responses in existing cancer therapies and to develop new treatments. Dr Ashwini Chand, Head, Cancer Therapeutics Development Group
170330 ONJCRI 0209 flip DSC03022 DSC03073

Our focus

Understanding how pro-inflammatory pathways drive tumour progression

Inflammatory cytokines promote cells in becoming more prone to growth and spreading to other parts of the body. By understanding how pro-inflammatory cytokines facilitate these cellular effects, we have been able to identify molecular targets, for which we are now developing targeted treatments.

Cancer drug discovery

Our research so far has led to the identification of particular inflammatory pathways, which we now aim to target in order to develop specific treatments that will block cancer growth in the gastrointestinal tract. In collaboration with structural biologists and chemists, we have identified new compounds which we are currently testing for their ability to block tumour cell survival and spread to other sites in the body. These can then be used in clinical research to ultimately provide new treatment options for patients.

Repurposing of commonly used drugs as new cancer treatments

New drug development is a lengthy and resource-intensive process. It is therefore beneficial to reassess existing drugs for additional uses in parallel with our research into new drug development. We are investigating the therapeutic value of a drug, already clinically approved to treat osteoporosis, as a novel treatment in gastric and colon cancers.

Crosstalk between the intestinal barrier and the microbiome

We are studying the effects of inflammatory disruption on the intestinal barrier in host-microbiome interaction and how this may contribute to the development of colon cancer. Additionally, our team is exploring the mechanisms of the gut microbiota so that its metabolites may be reinstated following chemo- and immunotherapy treatment in cancer patients.

Quick facts

What is preclinical drug discovery?

Preclinical drug discovery refers to when newly-developed novel compounds are first tested for anti-cancer capabilities using a range of biochemical and cell-based assays.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is the body's natural response to tissue damage, infection and disease.

What are pro-inflammatory cytokines?

Different cell types of the body produce pro-inflammatory cytokines as a means of causing inflammation in order to repair tissue and fight infection.

What is the gut microbiome?

The gut microbiome comprises all the trillions of microorganisms and their genetic material present in the intestinal tract. These microorganisms, mainly comprising bacteria, are involved in functions critical to our health.

  1. George AJ, Allen A, Chand AL. Repurposing ARBs as treatments for breast cancer. Aging. 2017 31;9(5):1357.
  2. Coulson R, Liew SH, Connelly AA, Yee NS, Deb S, Kumar B, Vargas AC, O'Toole SA, Parslow AC, Poh A, Putoczki T, George AJ, Clyne CD, Ernst M, Allen AM, Chand AL. The angiotensin receptor blocker, Losartan, inhibits mammary tumor development and progression to invasive carcinoma. Oncotarget. 2017 21;8(12):18640.
  3. Johnstone CN, Chand A, Putoczki TL, Ernst M. Emerging roles for IL-11 signaling in cancer development and progression: Focus on breast cancer. Cytokine Growth Factor Reviews. 2015 26(5):489.
  4. Lazarus KA, Brown KA, Young M, Zhao Z, Coulson R, Chand AL* and Clyne CD* Conditional over-expression of Liver Receptor Homolog-1 in mouse mammary epithelium results in altered morphogenesis via the induction of Transforming Growth Factor-β. Endocrinology 2014 155(5):1606. * Joint contribution
  5. Chand AL* and Knower KC*, Graham D, Eriksson N., Takagi, Sasano H, Visader J, Lindemann G.J, Simpson ER, Muscat G, Clarke C and Clyne CD Distinct nuclear receptor expression in stroma adjacent to breast tumors. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. 2013 142(1):211. * Joint contribution

Meet our team

Study at ONJCRI

Learn more