The global market of cancer drugs in 2017 was valued at $104 billion (Evaluate, May 2018). Annual global growth in the market is expected to be 12.2 % through 2024, reaching a total of $233 billion. Recent progress in the identification of new cancer targets has widened the scope of anti-cancer therapeutics from conventional chemotherapy or radiotherapy to molecularly targeted drugs. However, without a “guiding missile” for cancer targeted delivery, many of such anticancer therapeutics lead to damage of normal tissues that patients find hard to tolerate. Ideally, anticancer therapeutics carrying payloads of drugs equipped with cancer-targeting peptides (CTPs) as “guided missiles” should enable targeted delivery to cancer cells.
With the support of Ministry of Science and Technology in Taiwan (MOST), Dr. John Yu, Distinguished Chair Professor and Director, Institute of Stem Cell and Translational Cancer Research at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Linkou, used computer-aided methods and novel scoring algorithms, such as HotLig, for the rational design of cancer-targeting peptides. John Yu’s group has shown that these CTPs can guide various types of therapeutics to target many types of cancers. In addition to small molecules and radioactive isotopes, therapeutics such as DNA, RNA and liposomal drugs can all be conjugated with these peptides. CTPs can also be used to replace antibodies to generate immunotherapeutics such as bispecific antibodies and immunotoxins. Existing “targeted’ therapeutics for cancer patients usually focused on a few selected cancers. John’s patented “Fn Cancer Targeting Peptide” (FnCTP) technology not only has cancer specificity, it is currently the only technology that can be widely applied in a variety of cancers and can also target cancer stem cells. These features provide great advantage over existing therapeutics in fulfilling the unmet medical needs.
Through a series of computer simulation and amino acid sequence optimization of the selected first generation CTPs, the researchers successfully developed a new generation of FnCTP technology that has high cancer specificity. The research team has demonstrated that FnCTPs can identify at least 11 cancer types, including ovarian, gastric, lung, liver, breast, colorectal, pancreatic cancers etc., but will not bind to healthy breast, peripheral blood, vascular endothelial cells, and dermal fibroblasts. In 2019, the research team for this universal FnCTP platform technologies received the 16th National Innovation Award. In the same year, a new UCT Bioscience Co. was set up to develop novel anticancer drugs using this FnCTP core technology platform. Dr. Chia-Cheng Wu from Development Center of Biotechnology was recruited as the CEO of this new biomedical company. Last Dec, UCT Bioscience Co. received the exclusive technology transfer of FnCTP platform from Chang Gung Memorial Hospital. The company hopes to provide cancer patients targeted drugs that are effective with little side effects, to improve their chances of survival with better quality of life.
Dr. Yu is an internationally renowned researcher in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine. His research focuses on the identification of unique markers/regulators from stem cells and cancer stem cells, in order to develop new theranostics for cancer and anticancer therapy. On July 16 2019, he was invited to attend the MOST-NIH bilateral Science/Technology conference at NIH, Washington DC. Subsequently, he successfully worked out a collaborative project with National Cancer Institute, NIH. Specifically, he is currently working on a new anticancer therapeutics using the proprietary FnCTP platform and the NIH’s technology of Moxetumomab Pasudotox. Last November, one of his postdoctoral fellows worked in Dr. Ira Pastan’s lab at NIH to explore this possibility of developing new immunotoxin. He anticipated that this therapeutic FnCTP-PE38 fusion protein would target a broad spectrum of cancer types, including cancer stem cells.
In recent years, MOST has fostered multidisciplinary collaboration to promote the progress of regenerative medicine research. Such integration of biomedical resources, cross-disciplinary cooperation and international collaboration should facilitate a rapid development of anticancer therapeutics for the unmet medical need in Taiwan.
John Yu, M.D., Ph.D.
John Yu is the Distinguished Chair Professor/Director, Institute of Stem Cell/Translational Cancer Research, and Cell Therapy Center, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Taiwan. He is also Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow at Institute of Cellular & Organismic Biology, Academia Sinica, and was the Director for the same Institute (2002-2009). He is the founding President for Taiwan Society for Stem Cell Research. Dr. Yu was elected to serve in many ISSCR Committees USA, the Steering Committee of Asia-Pacific Stem Cell Network, and advisor for Stem Cell Biology, Kumamoto Univ. He was Director of Exp. Hematology (1998-2002) at Scripps Research Institute, USA. He received an Established Investigatorship Award from American Heart Assoc. and many other awards.
Dr. John Yu
Institute of Stem Cell and Translational Cancer Research, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Linkou, Taiwan
TEL: 03-328-1200 ext.7803
Dr. Hui-Hsin Lee
Department of Life Sciences, Ministry of Science and Technology