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There’s some promising news coming out of Oregon State University. 

A team of researchers at OSU has discovered a new class of anti-cancer compounds capable of killing both liver and breast cancer cells. These new compounds, called Select Modulators of AhR-regulated Transcription or SMAhRTs, weren’t the research team’s only discovery. They also identified the genetic protein aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) as a potential target for future cancer drugs.

OSU’s Professor of Cancer Research, Siva Kolluri, said in a university release, “Our research identified a therapeutic lead that acts through a new molecular target for treatment of certain cancers.” “This is an exciting development which lays a foundation for a new class of anti-cancer therapeutics acting through the AhR,” adds co-author Edmond Francis O’Donnell III. 

The study’s authors employed two molecular screening techniques to make these discoveries. It all started when those techniques detected a molecule called CGS-15943 capable of activating AhR signaling, consequently killing cancer cells.

The team analyzed cells from human hepatocellular carcinoma, a common variety of liver cancer, and cells from triple-negative breast cancer. 

They found that triple-negative breast cancer makes up about 15% of this form of the disease and has the worst prognosis for patients.

“We focused on these two types of cancers because they are difficult to treat and have limited treatment options,” Prof. Kolluri explains. “We were encouraged by the results because they are unrelated cancers, and targeting the AhR was effective in inducing death of both of these distinct cancers.”

As if that wasn’t enough, the team also revealed AhR-mediated pathways that appear to make it easier for CGS-15943 to attack cancer cells. This discovery will hopefully progress future cancer treatments.

The study was published in the journal Apoptosis.