Cancer in the Crosshairs

Date: 
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Author: 
Tim Stephens
UC Santa Cruz may not have a medical school, but its scientists are tackling some of the most challenging problems in cancer genomics, drug discovery, and basic cancer biology

Scott Lokey is not easily discouraged. In fact, he seems to thrive on scientific challenges, like taking on what the pharmaceutical industry calls “undruggable targets.” The term applies to molecules known to play a key role in disease but not susceptible to control by the kinds of small molecules that make good drugs.

Lokey, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry and director of the Chemical Screening Center at UC Santa Cruz, is working with compounds that he thinks could overcome the obstacles presented by “undruggable” targets. If successful, his work could lead to a whole new class of drugs to fight cancer and other diseases.

One such target is the retinoblastoma tumor suppressor protein, which normally puts the brakes on cell division. Its function is disrupted in most human cancers, allowing cancer cells to proliferate.

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