Dr. Nick Tonks
CSHL Research Enters Clinical Trial for Breast Cancer Therapy
Thanks to the Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation for over 10 years of funding that has propelled Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) cancer research to clinical application in both leukemia and breast cancer. Today, the Laboratory’s strategic affiliation with Northwell Health further allies us with the Monti/Saladino family, which has long supported cancer patients at Northwell facilities.
One of the earliest and perhaps most exciting accomplishments of the new CSHL-Northwell Health affiliation was the April 2016 start of a clinical trial to test a new therapy for HER-2 positive breast cancer that was developed from CSHL research. The Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation has provided funding for the research supporting this potential breakthrough therapeutic.
CSHL Professor Nick Tonks is an expert on the inner workings of a family of enzymes called protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTPs) that play a role in breast cancer development. CSHL researchers found that by regulating the activity of certain PTP enzymes, they could control HER-2 positive breast cancer tumor metastasis. Based on this research, Dr. Tonks’ team was able to develop a therapeutic approach to counter this particular tumor growth. And, just last year, CSHL, Northwell and a start-up company here on Long Island called DepYMed brought the CSHL developed therapeutic approach to a clinical trial.
The Phase 1 clinical trial is a “Study of the Safety and Tolerability of Single Agent MSI-1436c in Metastatic Breast Cancer Patients.” The agent is also known as Trodusquemine and has been described as a potential breakthrough in the fight against HER2-positive breast cancers, which tend to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer and less likely to be sensitive to hormone therapy. We look forward to the progress of the trial.
Dr. Tonks continues to explore the potential for PTP enzymes and the approach he developed for breast cancer to be applied to other cancers and diseases such as diabetes and obesity. “I’ve been trying to do this kind of thing since the mid- 1990s,” Tonks says. “And now, for the first time, we have the possibility of getting an inhibitor of that enzyme I purified 25 years ago to treat major human disease. The idea that one’s research can lead to treatments for real patients — well, there is no other way to put it. It’s just a huge motivating factor.”