Denis Collins School of Biotechnology
Assistant Prof Denis Collins has discovered a chemotherapy drug that kills skin cancer cells in the lab.

DCU scientists discover an experimental chemotherapy drug works in drug resistant skin cancer cells

DCU scientists have carried out laboratory research that identifies a new property of a chemotherapy drug, ABT-751, that could offer an advantage over existing chemotherapies

“ABT-751 is a chemotherapy drug that can be given in tablet form and has potential in treating drug resistant skin cancer,” said Denis Collins, Assistant Professor at the School of Biotechnology.  

Prof Collins' team had previously shown that up to 60% of skin cancers have high levels of drug pumps that pump chemotherapy out of the cancer before the cancer can be killed. This means the cancer does not respond to therapy and is “resistant”.

These drug pumps have a normal role in the body, keeping toxins out of healthy tissue.  However, when the drug pumps are present in skin cancer cells, they can stop chemotherapy working. ABT-751 is not affected by these drug pumps and will kill cancer cells even if they are present.

 In the current study, the DCU scientists used cancer cells grown in the lab containing a drug pump called P-gp and found that ABT-751 blocks this pump instead of passing through it. This means that ABT-751 could have an advantage over existing chemotherapies when treating skin cancer.

The study was published in the science journal “Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology” in January: