Chemistry and Cancer

Discovering drug-like chemicals that affect biological processes related to the development or inhibition of cancer

The Chemistry and Cancer Scientific Program focuses on discovery of small molecule agonists/antagonists of regulatory pathways relevant to human cancer. In a chemistry-to-biology direction, novel cytotoxic natural products and total synthetic derivatives are subjected to biochemical, genetic, or molecular biological studies aimed at resolving their precise mode-of-action.

Alternatively, attempts to identify small molecule agonists/antagonists of regulatory pathways relevant to cancer will be prosecuted via high throughput drug screening, medicinal chemistry, peptido-mimetics, or synthetic analogs of biologic metabolites.

For more information, email Steven McKnight, Ph.D., at or Jef De Brabander, Ph.D., at

Program Themes

Drs. Jef De Brabander and Steven McKnight
  • Molecular target identification of cytotoxic natural products
  • Smac mimetics and other means of perturbing apoptosis with synthetic chemicals
  • Hypoxia and discovery of small molecules capable of modulating the hypoxic response pathway
  • Maintain robust and widely available high-throughput screening capabilities to interrogate biological pathways and discover “first-in-class” small molecule leads
  • Pre-clinical evaluation of selected leads (toxicology, PK, efficacy)

How To Get Involved

Saliclihalamide was isolated from an unidentified species of the sea sponge

The Chemistry and Cancer Scientific Program seeks additional physicians and scientists having both broader and deeper understanding of human cancer to further collaboration of new scientific directions for HTS assays, peptidomimetic projects, and new natural product opportunities.

Program meetings every other Friday morning are attended by all investigators, postdoctoral fellows, students, and scientist-level technical staff.