The Developmental Therapeutics program at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute focuses on developing hypotheses and evidence-based translational strategies for improved cancer treatment.
Hong-yu Li, Ph.D., professor in the UAMS College of Pharmacy Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, serves as program leader.
The Cancer Institute’s largest research program, Developmental Therapeutics was originally known as the Therapeutic Science program. It recently received a name change and more focused mission emphasizing technology associated with the discovery and development of small molecule drug agents and biological therapies. This discovery phase is followed by validation using preclinical and clinical models.
“Our focus is both highly translational and highly collaborative. If we want to achieve results, we must collaborate with others, not only in this program, but also across UAMS, nationally and internationally. Collaboration is a priority in our success,” Li said.
The program’s main goals emphasize the optimization of therapies that connect the bench to the bedside through the discovery and development of new drugs for new cancer targets. By establishing a Phase 1 Clinical Trial Unit at the Cancer Institute, scientists could directly connect patient outcomes to their preclinical studies.
“A Phase 1 Unit would allow us not only to take our discoveries from bench to bedside, but also from the bedside back to the bench. If we found new mutations or biological targets, we can go back to the bench and continue working on those to further develop and improve the new drugs,” Li said.
Ultimately, the program aims for its members and collaborators to translate their research into new drugs for the marketplace. This directly ties to the Cancer Institute’s quest for National Cancer Institute (NCI) Designation, as NCI requires evidence of patents received and companies formed based on research accomplished at the centers.
The fact that program members have a wide range of expertise and practical experience in developing Investigational New Drug (IND) applications and conducting IND studies and clinical trials, gives the program an advantage.
“NCI wants to see us translate our basic research into something useful for the public. That, of course, is our ultimate goal as well,” Li said.