Development of a Small Molecule Therapeutic that Blocks Insulin-Like Growth Factors (IGFs) to Treat and Prevent Cancer
2016 Oxford-Harrington Scholar
Insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) are hormones produced by the liver that regulate growth and development. IGFs are closely related to insulin, which enables the body to utilize glucose. By binding to receptors on the surface of cancer cells, IGFs promote cancer growth and resistance to treatment. It has been found that people born with a genetic mutation (Laron syndrome) that prevents IGF production do not develop cancer. In the general population, people with high IGF are at increased risk of cancer.
Dr. Macaulay and her team are investigating the role of IGFs in cancer and also are testing anti-IGF drugs made by various pharmaceutical companies. They are now seeking small-molecule drugs that block IGFs in new ways, aiming to re-sensitize tumors to anticancer drugs or radiation therapy, and ultimately to prevent cancer development.
As an Oxford-Harrington Scholar, Dr. Macaulay hopes to identify a potential drug candidate and advance it through preclinical and clinical trials.
“It is a privilege to look after patients, and to be involved in trials of anti-IGF drugs. Sometimes patients come over to visit the lab – this helps the patients to understand how we are working to improve treatment. Meeting patients is also very inspiring for the scientists in my lab.”
“The ultimate aim of cancer research is prevention. It is possible that blocking IGFs could reduce the risk of cancer, and I am keen to pursue this.”
“This work keeps raising new questions. You have to be very motivated and be prepared to work hard to overcome obstacles and delays.”