Embargoed for release: Monday, August 23, 3:30 p.m., Eastern Time
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After decades of dreaming the drug developer’s impossible dream, scientists finally are reporting progress in making drugs that target the “untouchables” among the body’s key players in health and disease. They are the hundreds of thousands of proteins that many scientists considered to be “undruggable,” meaning that previous efforts to develop a drug against them had failed. Scientists described advances toward these drugs today during a special symposium, “Drugging the Undruggable,” at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. The advances could lead to a new generation of medicines for treating cancer, diabetes, and other major diseases, they said.
In one advance, scientists today reported on a new family of potential drugs that are capable of blocking a key protein that’s involved in the development of cancer. Called “stapled peptides,” the substances get their name from chemical “braces” that hold the peptides, or protein fragments, in a compact shape that gives them high stability in comparison to their unfolded versions. Their report indicated that the stapled peptides prevented the growth of cancer cells in a group of test animals, a key advance toward the start of clinical trials in a group of cancer patients.
“Stapled peptides represent an entirely new class of potential drugs,” said study leader Gregory Verdine, Ph.D., who has been studying the molecules for the past decade and helped pioneer their development. “They herald a new era in the drug-discovery world.”