Stefanie Sandberg, project manager, and Nasim Sabouri, one of the project owners.

G4 Cancer Cure, a biotech research initiative located in Umeå in northern Sweden, has attracted considerable interest from doctors and the pharmaceutical industry for a new treatment method it is developing for triple-negative breast cancer.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer to affect women around the world, with approximately 15 percent of all cases diagnosed as triple-negative breast cancer. G4 Cancer Cure’s progress towards a treatment method is therefore being followed very closely, according to Project Manager Stefanie Sandberg.
“Our needs analysis shows there is huge interest in a new treatment method from doctors as well as pharmaceutical companies, experts and investors”, she says.

The G4 Cancer Cure project, which receives business support from Umeå Biotech Incubator (UBI), is based on years of research from biochemist Nasim Sabouri, chemist Erik Chorell and cell biologist Sjoerd Wanrooij working out of Umeå University. Triple-negative breast cancer is particularly aggressive and deadly as it lacks certain markers that are otherwise used to treat breast cancer, rendering established cancer medicines powerless against it.

G4 Cancer Cure is developing an emerging treatment method that could make a huge difference to the outcomes of patients suffering from triple-negative breast cancer, as well as make it easier for doctors and healthcare professionals to treat them.

“This type of breast cancer has a high death rate and there is no effective treatment method today. It is incredibly tough on patients and it is difficult for doctors to treat. There is absolutely a need for a treatment method that is both gentler and more effective – one that can improve a patient’s quality of life, prolong it and reduce the chance of the cancer returning. Triple-negative breast cancer often affects young women, and it is particularly painful to hear about mothers of young children who are affected while there is still a lack of an effective treatment method”, says Stefanie Sandberg.

G4 Cancer Cure’s treatment contains small molecules that target so-called G-quadruplex (G4) DNA structures. In addition to the treatment method being able to attack the cancer more effectively, it also has potentially reduced side effects as there are fewer G4 structures in healthy cells compared to cancer cells, and so less risk of drug resistance.

The main research behind G4 Cancer Cure’s work with G4 DNA is being conducted at Umeå University and is based on Nasim Sabouri’s discovery of proteins that regulate G4 DNA in the cell’s genetic material. The research group is determining which cellular mechanisms G4 regulates, which proteins specifically bind to the G4 structures, and how mutations in G4-specific proteins can lead to cancer.

“Our research is going very well. We are a dedicated team striving for the same goal and we want to use the knowledge we’ve gained from our research to develop a new kind of chemotherapy (cytostatics) treatment that selectively attacks G4 structures and not the rest of the cell’s DNA. Because G4 structures are enriched in cancer cells, this strategy would be more selective than current cytotoxic drugs that attack all types of DNA, which would result in fewer side effects in a patient’s healthy cells. It would be amazing to find a solution to triple-negative breast cancer”, says Nasim Sabouri.