Researchers at the MRC London institute of Medical Sciences (LMS) are working with biopharmaceutical company Pfizer to identify potential drug candidates that target harmful cells associated with a wide range of age-related diseases. The collaboration brings together researchers from the LMS and Pfizer’s Centers for Therapeutic Innovation.
Professor Jesús Gil, who heads up the Senescence Research Group at the LMS, will lead the research to identify new targets for senolytics – drugs that kill ‘senescent’ cells. Cells become senescent when they are unable to continue replicating, but do not die. Senescent cells are associated with cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as eye conditions and lung disease, amongst others. Senolytics have shown promise in the treatment of these diseases. However, current senolytics either cause side effects or don’t perform effectively, leaving much room for improvement.
Professor Gil’s lab has been carrying out genetic and drug screens to identify novel targets for senolytics. These studies have already resulted in the identification of a previously undescribed potential target, which when inhibited or knocked down causes senescent cells to die in both in vitro and in vivo.
“In this next stream of exciting work with Pfizer, we will seek to validate the potential of this novel senolytic target,” says Professor Gil. “If this is successful, the next step would be to screen molecules that inhibit this target. Such a drug could be used in anticancer therapies combined with conventional or targeted therapies. And, given the wide range of senescent-associated diseases, other uses, such as the treatment of fibrosis, could be explored.”
“Effective senolytic drugs could have a significant impact on how we treat multiple co-morbidities,” added Professor Gil. “This is a salient issue amongst older adult patients, who are often taking multiple types of medication many times a day to individually treat each illness they have. Instead, effective senolytics could mean that a single medicine might be able to treat or manage multiple diseases at once.”