The goal of the DISA program, is to develop drugs that inhibit the protein TREX1 in order to enhance the effect of immuno-oncological therapy, radiation therapy and chemotherapy in the treatment of cancer.
Cancer cells often have elevated levels of DNA fragments that have incorrectly ended up outside the cell nucleus. Since DNA fragments that are outside the cell nucleus can activate the immune system, cancer cells depend upon these DNA fragments being rapidly removed – if they are not, the body’s immune system will attack the cancer cells.
The target protein in the DISA project, TREX1 (three-prime repair exonuclease 1), is a protein that breaks down DNA fragments outside the cell nucleus and thus helps cancer cells escape the immune system. Scientific studies have previously shown that there is a link between elevated levels of the TREX1 protein and inferior survival for patients with certain types of cancer, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and pancreatic cancer.