Dundee University is leading a multi-million pound international project aimed at making new drugs available to patients faster and in a safer fashion.
Three more scientists have been recruited to the university's Biomedical Research Institute where they will work with senior colleagues on the five-year MARCAR project.
Dr Colin Henderson, a scientist at the institute and one of the project leaders, said his team was aiming to find changes, known as biomarkers, that give early clues of developing cancers.
"We don't know what we are going to find," said Dr Henderson. "There could be changes in proteins in the blood or other changes."
By studying patterns of change using known cancer-causing drugs in animals and identifying biomarkers associated with those drugs, the research team hopes to reduce the time it takes to bring new drugs to market.
Dr Henderson explained that testing new drugs is a long and costly process.
If biomarkers could be identified that gave an early indication of cancer, drugs in development could be abandoned at an early stage if they produced those biomarkers.
Researchers could dismiss the drugs that would cause cancer and concentrate their efforts on developing drugs that did not produce these biomarkers and indicated they would be safe given to humans.
"This is a very important European Union project, which will be of significant importance in determining the carcinogenic risk to humans from a range of chemicals," Dr Henderson added.
"Predictions regarding safety of drug compounds can be imprecise and sometimes incorrect. If we could make better predictions at an early stage of drug development it would save a lot of time and money and make the whole process more efficient.
"To achieve that we need to identify early biological indicators, known as biomarkers, that can be used to predict the effects of drugs and reliably and robustly predict later cancer development.
"This would be immensely valuable in pre-clinical development of new drug compounds.
"Translation of early cancer biomarkers into the clinic would also improve safety for patients participating in clinical trials."
The €12 million MARCAR project involves a number of different academic and pharmaceutical industry partners, including Dundee-based bio-tech firm CXR Biosciences.
4 May 2010
Dundee takes lead role in supporting cancer drugs development