NMSU, UNM scientists’ work may lead to new cancer treatment

After 15 years of research, a partnership between two New Mexico professors is leading to possible, new skin cancer treatments.

Jeffrey Arterburn, New Mexico State University Regents’ professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and his research group partnered with the University of New Mexico cancer biologist Eric Prossnitz and a scientific team at UNM’s Comprehensive Cancer Center to investigate a new target for breast cancer drugs.

With a pilot grant from the Cowboys for Cancer Research Foundation, the team combined chemistry to create new compounds in Arterburn’s lab and extensive testing and development in Prossnitz’ complex cancer models. The pilot funding would eventually lead to more than $8 million in additional research support.

Prossnitz, Arterburn and their colleagues obtained a patent for the compounds in 2011. Then, in 2017, a start-up company called Linnaeus contacted UNM.STC, a non-profit that oversees the transfer of UNM-developed technology. Linnaeus has licensed a drug candidate for testing in combination with immune therapy for melanoma.

Linnaeus is currently carrying out pre-clinical studies. If they go well, Linnaeus will begin human trials at a few sites around the country led by the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Michele Sequeira

Eric Prossnitz (left), UNM professor in the Department of Internal Medicine and chief of the Division of Molecular Medicine, and Jeffrey Arterburn, Regents’ professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at NMSU, discovered a compound that may lead to new skin cancer treatments.