The FFG has now decided to fund a new project entitled "Identification of novel STAT3/5 inhibitors to interfere with the oncogenic activities of STATs in hematopoietic cancer" in collaboration of Prof. Richard Moriggl of the LBI-CR and Prof. Patrick Gunning of the University Toronto, which aims to identify new compounds blocking STAT function in cancer. STATs are hyper activated in many solid and hematopoietic cancers due to mutations in upstream kinases or point mutations in conserved domains of STAT proteins. Direct targeting of STAT transcription factors or blocking them in combination with tyrosine kinase inhibitors holds great promise to explore new therapeutic avenues.
Richard Moriggl is looking forward to use the available funds to intensify the longstanding collaboration with Patrick Gunning: "The team in Toronto has extensive expertise in medicinal chemistry and therefore complements our abilities to analyse faithful models of neoplastic disease. I am certain we will identify novel compounds, which might not only prove to be attractive leads for clinical development, but also become useful research tools." A newly recruited PhD student will perform research in Vienna and Toronto and will receive interdisciplinary training to ensure attractive career perspectives in industry or academia.
Accumulating evidence suggests that STATs are tumor promoters, but can also serve as potential tumor suppressors in a tissue specific context. Therefore, renewed focus shifts towards the functional details of transcriptional activation by STATs and the different complexes they can participate to regulate gene activation. With the identification of selective and effective STAT3/5 inhibitors, we will thus not only contribute to the development of a new generation of targeted drugs, but we will also support functional studies into the mechanistic details of STAT gene activation, which holds the potential to develop even more specific and less toxic compounds for clinical application.