GW TCO $50K Grant Winner Developing a Therapeutic for Drug-Resistant Ovarian Cancer

Congratulations to Associate Professor Wenge Zhu, winner of Technology Maturation Award

December 16, 2020

Photo of Associate Professor Wenge Zhu

Associate Professor Wenge Zhu of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine and the George Washington University (GW) Cancer Center will further develop a novel small molecule drugs to help treat drug-resistant ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancers often develop resistance to platinum drug chemotherapies, which is why the survival rate of ovarian cancer patients is so low. Ovarian cancer is the second most frequent cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the U.S.

"A reset switch for drug-resistant ovarian cancer"

Dr. Zhu’s past research identified the cell signaling pathway involved in establishing platinum drug resistance. Then he proved that known drugs that inhibit this pathway could help re-sensitize cancer cells to platinum drugs. Now he has found new compounds to target this pathway. The hope is that the new highly potent protease inhibitors will act synergistically with platinum drugs to halt ovarian cancer.

While Dr. Zhu has demonstrated effectiveness of the new drug in cell cultures, this award will enable animal studies. Animal studies are critical to evaluate how well the drug works and how safe it is. They are also critical to attract interest from potential licensees that would take the treatment through clinical trials to one day reach patients in need.

The worldwide ovarian cancer drug market is expected to reach $2 billion by 2022 (11.2%/yr). Hopefully this drug will also be useful for other cancers treated with platinum-based drugs.

The GW Technology Commercialization Office (TCO) sponsored the Technology Maturation Award to accelerate GW technologies development and increase their likelihood of getting licensed. GW TCO works with industry partners to license and commercialize technology solutions to improve and save lives. TCO seeks to impact society by bringing new treatments, diagnostics, or devices to the market.