‘Exquisitely tailored’ molecules – made at U of T – hold great promise for deadly ignored cancers, says researcher Patrick Gunning

Patrick Gunning talking to Eugenia Duodu in a chemistry lab
Monday, February 27, 2017 - 12:05pm
Jennifer Robinson

U of T Mississauga professor Patrick Gunning is at the forefront of a tectonic shift in the fight against cancer. As head of the new Centre for Medicinal Chemistry, his research may well halt some of the deadliest and rarest forms of the disease, including cancers of the blood, brain and breast.

Unlike healthy cells, cancer cells constantly grow and divide, evading natural cues to die. Gunning is killing cancer cells by blocking the key proteins necessary for their survival. His research targets the STAT3 and STAT5 proteins, which play a role in 70 per cent of cancers. Gunning has created molecules that “switch off” these proteins, severing cancer’s lifeline. What’s more, healthy cells are untouched.

Four potential new drugs are in the final stages of development. “We’re almost there,” says Gunning. “Our molecules have killed cancer cells in numerous pre-clinical trials. Now we need to get them into clinical trials, so we can start saving lives.”

Read the full Q&A with Professor Patrick Gunning...