New drug could combat growth of solid tumors

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Researchers at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale (Arizona) Healthcare are now enrolling eligible patients in a phase 1 clinical trial for TKM-PLK1, an investigational drug designed to stop cancer cells from dividing.

The agent targets the polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1) protein, which promotes tumor-cell reproduction. Developed by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, TKM-PLK1 is intended for persons with advanced solid tumors who are not well served by current therapy. According to a statement issued by the Piper center, laboratory research indicates that TKM-PLK1 may be effective against breast, colorectal, non-small-cell lung, and ovarian cancers.

“One of the things that makes this drug unique is its use of siRNA technology,” noted Ramesh Ramanathan, MD, principal investigator at the Piper center, in the statement. “A small engineered compound is introduced into the cancer cell and stops production of this [PLK1] protein that cancer cells need to grow. It's like a stealth attack on the cancer cell.”

The researchers hope to enroll up to 52 patients in TKM-PLK1 clinical trials set to take place in three centers nationwide. For more information, contact Piper's cancer care coordinator at 480-323-1339, toll-free at 877-273-3713, or via e-mail at

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