A drug that is activated by light can be a quick, simple, and cheap treatment for tens of thousands of patients with skin cancer in Sweden alone. Researcher Leif Eriksson’s team at Örebro University in Sweden has now received about SEK 4 million from government research financiers, the Swedish Research Council and Vinnova to further develop and commercialise the method.
The new drug that the Örebro researchers have developed is based on the use of photodynamic therapy in cancer treatment. In short, this is a drug that after reorganisation in the cell is activated by light, which in turn leads to chemical reactions that effectively kills cancer cells.
With this method, a majority of the some 30,000 new cases of skin cancer discovered each year in Sweden alone could be treated quickly, simply, and cost effectively. This is also true for pre-stages of skin cancer, so-called actinic keratosis.
"It’s extremely gratifying that two of the most important research financiers in Sweden so actively support our research," says Leif Eriksson, professor of biophysical and theoretical chemistry at Örebro University.
Leif Eriksson’s drug research has grown out of the Örebro Life Science Center (OLSC), an interdisciplinary, internationally acclaimed research node at Örebro University. Research on new forms of treatment for skin tumours is also being conducted in collaboration with Associate Professor Lennart Löfgren at the Center for Head and Neck Oncology at Örebro University Hospital.
"Our drug, and the new treatment concept we are developing together with researchers in Belfast, has tremendous potential. In the coming year we will also see further patents as a direct result of the collaboration with other research teams within the OLSC, including treatments for atherosclerosis and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatism," says Leif Eriksson.
The development of new drugs is being carried out with the aid of advanced computer modelling a method that has proven to be highly successful.
"We provide the expertise in the theoretical description of new drugs. In our research we aim to describe at a detailed level what they should look like, what properties they should have to match the right targets in the body, what happens if we alter the molecules in different ways, etc. We then put this together through collaboration with experimental or clinically active research teams within OLSC and at the hospital, which makes the research exciting and dynamic," says Leif Eriksson.
(Source: Vetenskapsradet – The Swedish Research Council: November 2008)