Small Molecule Anti-cancer Agents that Stabilize the MYC-G-Quadruplex

The proto-oncogene c-Myc is deregulated and overexpressed in ~70% of all cancers. Thus, c-Myc is an attractive therapeutic target since disrupting c-Myc activity could be used as pan-chemotherapy. Beyond cancer, Myc is also a positive effector of tissue inflammation, and its function has been implicated in the pathophysiology of heart failure. Because c-Myc is a transcription factor, a rationally designed small molecule targeting c-Myc would be required to exhibit significant specificity. Unfortunatly, several physical characteristics of Myc make it a very difficult protein to target and, to date, there are no approved drugs targeting c-Myc.

The invention is directed to small molecules that stabilize the transcription repressing quadruplex in the c-Myc gene promoter region. Invention compounds target c-Myc at the transcriptional level are shown to inhibit c-Myc expression. Invention compounds are effective in selective killing in a variety of c-Myc driven cancer cell lines, including leukemia, non-small-cell lung cancer, colon, central nervous system, melanoma, ovarian, renal prostate and breast. Minimal unwanted activity is observed in peripheral blood mononucleocytes or cancer cell lines that resist inhibition of c-Myc protein expression.

Current efforts are focused on developing more potent molecules with improved ability to decrease c-Myc expression and superior bioavailability.  Through synthesis of a focused library of analogs, we have identified inhibitors with improved Kd values for the quadruplex, improved toxicity towards c-Myc-driven cancer cells, and improved efficacy for decreasing c-Myc expression.  By solving an NMR structure of the quadruplex in complex with the small molecule, we have begun to establish a molecular basis for selectivity observed in cell-based and biophysical assays and are working to use this information to design improved inhibitors.  Additionally, we  show that one compound of interest is orally bioavailable, albeit with a Cmax in oral dosing slightly below the concentration required for oral efficacy.

This technology is available for licensing and co-development to qualified entities.

Potential Commercial Applications: Competitive Advantages:
  • Therapeutic for multiple myeloma, carcinoma of the cervix, colon, breast, lung and stomach 
  • Tissue Inflammation
  • First in class drug since no c-Myc drugs have been approved for any cancer indication
  • Drug-like in nature, satisfying all of Lipinski’s rule of five parameters 
  • Orally bioavailable 
  • Decreasing c-Myc expression without affecting expression from other quadruplex-driven genes
  • Compound has significant potential for improvement with very minor structural alternations
  • The methodologies used by the lab have explored the biological potential of c-Myc G-quadruplex-stabilizing agents to a degree of complexity greater than what has ever been done before.

Development Stage:
Discovery (Lead Identification)


John Schneekloth (NCI)  ➽ more inventions...

Beverley Mock (NCI)  ➽ more inventions...

Lindsey Saunders (NCI)  ➽ more inventions...

David Calabrese (NCI)  ➽ more inventions...

Elena Leon (NCI)  ➽ more inventions...

John Simmons (NCI)  ➽ more inventions...

Kenneth Felstenstein (NCI)  ➽ more inventions...

Peter Gareiss

Intellectual Property:
Foreign Filed Application No. PCT/US2016/012222

Kenneth M. Felsenstein et al. PMID 26462961

Collaboration Opportunity:

Licensing and research collaboration

Licensing Contact:
John Hewes, Ph.D.
Phone: 240-276-5515

OTT Reference No: E-053-2015
Updated: Apr 3, 2018