May 2013

UCD / Mater Researcher Leads Test of New Class of Drug to Target Skin Cancer

Thu, 23 May 13 14:25

A new class of drug targeting basal cell carcinoma, the most common skin cancer, has been successfully tested in humans for the first time. The research involves the drug DZ13, a molecular therapy, which works by switching off a gene called c-Jun that is linked to the production of a protein that causes cancer to grow and spread.

Dr Fergal Moloney, Consultant Dermatologist in the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin and Clinical Senior Lecturer at UCD School of Medicine & Medical Science was principal investigator and co-author on this study, which was conducted at the Royal Prince Albert Hospital, Sydney between September 2010 and October 2011. Dr Moloney's research was carried out in collaboration with Professor Levon Khachigian, University of New South Wales and Professor Gary Halliday, University of Sydney. The findings were published in the Lancet.

The study involved injecting the drug directly into a basal cell skin cancer in nine patients. While the study was designed to assess safety and tolerability, all nine patients were found to have lower levels of the target protein, with reduction in tumour depth noted in five of the nine patients. The research group had previously demonstrated that DZ13 caused tumours to virtually disappear in animal models.

The results of this study suggest that targeted therapy with DZ13 could be developed for other cancers and disorders in which c-Jun regulates disease. A phase one trial in skin melanoma is scheduled to begin shortly.


  • The research was supported by a translational program grant from Cancer Institute NSW, and grants from Cancer Council Australia and the National Health and Medical Research Council. 

Research Paper