The search for new drugs, including those for cancer, is set to speed up thanks to a new research technique invented by scientists at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
Named the “Cellular Thermal Shift Assay” (CETSA), scientists can now know for sure if a drug had reached its target protein in the body, which is a critical step in determining the effectiveness of most medicines.
Presently, scientists can only hypothesise if a drug has indeed reached its target protein, leading to expensive and prolonged drug development process. CETSA will help scientists take out much of the usual trial-and-error guesswork from the drug development equation.
This research breakthrough was recently published in Science, one of the world’s top scientific journals.
Most drugs operate by binding to one or more proteins, which ‘blocks’ the proteins’ function. Scientists around the world face two common bottlenecks: how to identify the right proteins to target and how to design drug molecules which are able to efficiently seek out and bind to these proteins.
CETSA’s inventor, Professor Pär Nordlund from NTU’s School of Biological Sciences, said their new method will not only ease the two bottlenecks, but also has important applications in monitoring a patient’s progress, for example, during cancer treatment.
“With CETSA, we can in principle determine which drug and treatment regime is most effective at targeting the proteins in the tumour in cancer patients, and monitor when resistance is developing,” says Prof Nordlund.