December 8, 2022 / All Stories

Discovery Files: A Vision for Blood Cancer Patients

In this episode, veteran chemist Andy Souers rewinds to the “eureka” moment behind a cancer discovery and the 20-year journey to becoming a medicine. 

How does a molecule become a medicine?

In this episode of Discovery Files, we hear from veteran chemist Andy Souers, Ph.D., distinguished research fellow, AbbVie oncology discovery research, on how his team made a blood cancer discovery.

As Souers details in the episode, the story begins in the mid-90s, motivated by a need to find a different option for patients with blood cancer.

Turn back the clock to the “eureka” moment on a molecule’s journey to becoming a medication. In this episode, the lead chemist behind a discovery for blood cancer gives an inside look at the quest to help people with leukemia.

The research team zeroed in on understanding the processes within a cancer cell that might lead them to something that could kill the cells. They soon focused on apoptosis, a normal process where aged or damaged cells undergo a programmed death. Apoptosis allows cancer cells to multiply and build up, crowding out normal, healthy cells.

“We asked ourselves, ‘Could we actually come up with a molecule that could get into that cancer cell and turn that cell death process back on?’” Souers says.

That’s what took the team down the road of targeting BCL-2 family of proteins, also called B-cell lymphoma two, a pro survival protein that keeps a cell alive.

After many months of experimenting and failing, the tenacity of the scientific team, working around the clock, led to a thrilling discovery, according to Souers.

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