Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Developmental Therapeutics

Program co-leaders
Steven Grant, M.D.
Richard G. Moran, Ph.D.

VCU Massey Cancer Center’s newly organized Developmental Therapeutics (DT) program consists of a multidisciplinary group of 32 investigators from 11 academic departments in VCU School of Medicine, VCU School of Pharmacy, VCU School of Nursing and VCU College of Humanities and Sciences, who share common interests in preclinical and clinical aspects of cancer therapeutics.

Scientific goals

The members of the DT program share the scientific goals of examining the processes underlying cancer therapeutics, identifying molecular targets, determining how the molecular genetic profiles of tumors govern sensitivity to agents and combinations of agents, particularly targeted agents, and translating these findings into the design and implementation of novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of cancer.

The central theme of the DT program is to facilitate studies within and between laboratories that enhance our understanding of the biology underlying cancer therapeutics, and which lead to the discovery of novel and innovative anti-cancer agents as well as therapeutic drug combinations for the treatment of cancer. Research initiatives within this program encompass four major aims:

 

  • The identification of potential targets and targeted agents for cancer therapy and characterization of their effects on diverse models of human cancer
  • The investigation of therapeutic leads from this and other Massey research programs in preclinical systems of increasing complexity and early phase clinical trials
  • The evaluation of hypotheses based on targeting multiple pathways to develop rational drug combinations for cancer treatment
  • The validation of therapeutic innovations developed within the program in the form of Phase II and III clinical trials

Objectives

Members of the DT program have NCI and NIH-funded research programs involving therapeutic development of AMPK activators, inhibition of steps in epigenetic pathways, novel platinum-containing drugs, the combination of targeted agents affecting histone deacetylases, protein kinase inhibitors, proteasome inhibitors, inhibitors of Bcl-2 family proteins and inhibitors of cell cycle progression, angiogenesis, antifolates, and novel cyclic peptides inhibiting kinases, DNA repair processes and autophagy.

 

This program also includes investigations involving immunotherapy of cancer designed to understand the roles of myeloid-derived suppressor cells in tumor development and resistance to immunotherapy. Concepts emerging from several of these projects have been or are being translated in clinical trials, and it is an explicit objective of the DT program to enable and facilitate such translational initiatives. DT program members actively collaborate with investigators in the Cancer Molecular Genetics, Cancer Cell Signaling and Radiation Biology and Oncology programs and have brought structural and chemical biological approaches as well as clinical endpoints to these collaborations.