When Saul Rosenberg, Executive Director, Oncology Discovery, and his team at AbbVie began investigating a new way to restore cancer cells’ ability to self-destruct, they had a feeling they were onto something. What they didn’t know was just how big the idea was – and how far down a new path it would take them.
Every day, cells die in our body, making room for new, healthier cells. This process – called programmed cell death or apoptosis – is typically controlled and predictable in multicellular organisms.1 But what happens if that carefully-regulated process stops working? The cells that should naturally die, don't. Left to their own devices, they can build up in our bodies causing tumors to develop. Many of those tumors become cancer.1,2
Rosenberg and his team hoped that by understanding the pathways involved in apoptosis, they could begin to find ways to treat different forms of cancer. Their exploration brought them to a target: a protein called B-cell lymphoma 2 or BCL-2, which tends to bind to and neutralize the proteins that aid in apoptosis, limiting their ability to initiate the process.3,4
At the time, no one else was investigating a way to block BCL-2. So to further their investigation, Rosenberg and his team began sharing several of their BCL-2 inhibitor molecules with scientists at other universities and academic centers. Together, perhaps they could gather more data and determine which of these molecules to move forward with.