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Cancer treatments have dramatically improved during past 2 decades. However, we are still facing problems to surmount in therapy of cancers. Recent advance in finding of driver oncogenes and molecular-based understanding of cell proliferation has provided the rationale for the molecular-targeted therapy to control cancer. Based on these analyses, many molecular target drugs have already approved and used in clinical, and also a number of new drugs are developed. Additionally, new type of target therapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors have been developed and showed market effect in a subset of cancer patients. These drugs are used alone or in combination with other molecular target drugs or traditional chemotherapy.
The aim of this research division is to understand the molecular basis of cancers, identify possible molecular targets, to clarify the function of molecular targets, and to develop an effective molecular-targeted therapy of cancer. Now, we are focusing on the drug resistance mechanisms in cancer especially for molecular targeted drugs. In addition, we are trying to find the molecular markers and nature of cancer stem cells because cancer stem cells can survive after therapy and can repopulate the tumor.
Another important project in this research division is to develop anti-metastatic drugs. Prof. Naoya Fujita, a former PI in this division and a current director in the Cancer Chemotherapy Center, identified platelet aggregation inducing factor Aggrus protein that is also known as podoplanin in 2003. Aggrus is expressed in many tumor cells and is associated with hematogeneous metastasis. Recent findings indicate that CLEC-2 expressed on platelets is one of the Aggrus ligands. So, we are now trying to identify low molecular weight compounds and monoclonal antibodies that can interfere Aggrus-CLEC-2 binding to prevent cancer metastasis. We hope these drugs and antibodies will be used as anti-metastatic drugs in near future.
Because our center is opened to academia and industry, we hope you will join and support us for further innovation of better molecular target drugs for cancer.
Chief: Ryohei Katayama, Ph.D.