Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common high-grade malignant brain tumour in adults. It is a devastating disease with a very poor 5-year survival rate of 5%, a figure which has not improved over the last few decades. The Targeted Therapy Group at the University of Surrey in collaboration with HOX Therapeutics and the Universities of Leeds and Texas, present a novel and effective potential treatment for this disease in their publication ‘HOX and PBX gene dysregulation as a therapeutic target in glioblastoma multiforme’ in the Journal BMC Cancer. They target HOX genes, a family of genes involved in the healthy growth of brain and other tissues.
These genes are silenced at birth after vigorous activity in the growing embryo. However, they are inappropriately ‘switched on’ again and lead to the development and progression of cancer. HOX gene dysregulation has long been recognised in GBM, but so far has proved elusive as a therapeutic target. In this study, the researchers evaluated HTL-001, a peptide designed to block the function of HOX genes, and showed its effectiveness in cell and animal models. ‘This is a completely unique approach to addressing an appalling disease and based on known biological mechanisms that drive this cancer’ said Prof Hardev Pandha, Prof Of Medical Oncology and the project leader. ‘The outcome has been an excellent industry/academia collaboration, and we hope now to move to the next stage of developing this drug for patients’ said James Culverwell CEO, HOX Therapeutics.