Development of cancer drugs on the basis of highly effective small molecules

GO-Bio 1 – Joe Lewis, PhD – European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) at the Helmholtz Association, Heidelberg | Elara Pharmaceuticals GmbH

Drei Mediamentenkapseln liegen auf der Zeichnung einer Molekülstruktur

Schlierner - Fotolia

Recipient: European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL)
Funding: GO-Bio Phase I (01.03.2007 - 31.12.2008, 2.200.175 Euro)

Recipient: Elara Pharmaceuticals GmbH
Funding: GO-Bio Phase II (01.01.2009 - 31.03.2011, 2.787.340 Euro)


Most cancers are not caused by individual genes or proteins but by the complex interplay of numerous dysfunctional factors. This knowledge has given rise to the development of various cancer treatment strategies that focus on a range of target molecules as well as different classes of active substances. However, the corresponding medications that have found application to date are not yet effective enough or are associated with strong side effects for patients. Together with EMBL colleague George Reid, the molecular biologist Joe Lewis is now pursuing new therapeutic strategies for combating cancer on the basis of chemically produced ‘small molecules’. This class of drug can be taken orally and is extremely precise in its action against functional protein networks.

Within the framework of the project funding, the small molecules will play a central role in two different therapeutic strategies for inhibiting the growth and distribution of cancer cells. The researchers will initially target the so-called aurora kinases as a point of attack. These protein molecules are known to play a crucial role in cell division. The researchers have now found a more precise means of influencing their activity than was previously possible. The second approach will focus on oestrogen receptors and their influence on hormone-related cancer diseases such as breast or ovarian cancer. This is ultimately aimed at the identification of small molecules that can targetedly suppress these processes. For both approaches, the researchers are now planning to develop the most promising drug candidates up to clinical application, and are founding the company ELARA Pharmaceuticals GmbH to carry out these and other activities.