OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It’s a potentially historic breakthrough in cancer treatment – from researchers right here in Oklahoma.
A medication developed in the Sooner State will soon be tested in patients.
It would help patients like Dena Newlun, currently in a clinical trial for another cancer drug.
“It’s a sacrifice,” Newlun said. “Sometimes it’s really hard.”
Medication like the one Newlun is on can often take a toll – but researchers at OU Health hope a new drug called OK-1 will change that.
“Our goal was to develop drugs that can kill cancer cells without harming healthy cells or causing side effects,” said Dr. Doris Benbrook with OU Health.
Benbrook has been working on OK-1 for more than 25 years – studying variations of Vitamin A and how it affects cancer cells versus healthy cells.
Over the years, she found it could attack cancer cells and the proteins that typically protect them – without side effects.
“We think it’s going to be a drug that plays very well in the sandbox as we like to say with other drugs we’re already using that work pretty well,” said Dr. Kathleen Moore, another researcher at OU Health.
The researchers were awarded multiple multi-million dollar grants from the National Cancer Institute.
However, OK-1 was developed in Oklahoma without pharmaceutical support or venture capital – something that’s very rare.
“A lot of times this is called the valley of death where great ideas just can’t get to the next level,” said Dr. Robert Mantle, Director of the OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center.
But now, it advances to Phase 1 clinical trials for women with advanced-stage gynecological cancers.
Early research shows it may also help prevent the disease.
“It’s sort of the Holy Grail for us,” Moore said. “It’s the beginning of a really exciting research enterprise.”
OK-1 will be given in pill form so the patients can take it at home.