Small Molecule Drug Development for Pancreatic Cancer

Small Molecule Drug Development for Pancreatic Cancer

Overview of small molecules in targeted cancer therapy

Pancreatic cancer (mostly pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, PDAC) is one of the deadliest cancers, with a median survival of less than 1 year and a 5-year survival of only about 10%. To enhance outcomes for pancreatic cancer (PC) patients, small molecule therapeutic targeted compounds have been widely used. Alfa Cytology is a full-scale contract research organization (CRO) with extensive experience. We are committed to providing a range of PC research and drug development services to our global clients ranging from pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and research institutions. Here, we are delighted to provide small molecule drug development services for PC, ranging from target discovery & validation, hit identification and lead generation, and hit-to-lead optimization, to preclinical safety assessment

Overview of small molecules in targeted cancer therapy

As a new type of targeted therapeutic agent, small molecule compounds have become a hot topic in the research of tumors (including PC) due to their ease of structural modification, better suitability for clinical needs (they can be taken orally as tablets), and lower cost. In addition, small molecule drugs offer advantages over macromolecule drugs such as monoclonal antibodies, peptides, and antibody-drug conjugates in terms of pharmacokinetic (PK) properties, patient compliance, cost, and drug storage and transport. The principle of small molecule compounds is to target the molecular biology underlying tumorigenesis, usually by modulating the activity of protein targets. At present, there are two major protein targets of small molecule compounds, namely enzymes and receptors. Small molecule compounds can exert different effects depending on the type of targets and can be divided into enzyme inhibitors, receptor agonists, and receptor antagonists.

Our services and capabilities

We have an in-depth understanding of PC cell and receptor biology, its inherent molecular heterogeneity, and in particular, the complex molecular pathology of PC improved by genomic analysis. With a range of platforms and expertise in PC research and therapeutic areas, we can provide our services in a modular and integrated manner during the development of small molecule drugs according to our customers' requirements.

Our services support these popular biological targets for PC therapy, including protein kinases and tyrosine kinases, signal transducer and activator of transcription3 (STAT3), focal adhesion kinase (FAK), mitogen-activated protein kinase, BCL-2 family proteins (Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, Bcl-w, and Mcl-1) and histone deacetylases (HDACs).

Our small molecule drug discovery project team uses hit identification approaches that mix design and screening elements. To get as many accurate hits as possible, our team's design hit strategy begins with the goal of carefully reviewing and evaluating what appropriate methods will be followed. With a range of orthogonal methods, we are able to deliver high-quality, validated hit compounds to our customers.

During the compound design and compound synthesis, a range of parameters must be fully understood and considered, including potency, stability, bioavailability, efficacy, selectivity, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and so on. The optimization of a lead structure is mainly through iterative rounds of medicinal chemistry design, synthesis, and testing. Our services are based on in-depth scientific expertise, proven discovery platforms, and years of experience, supporting the optimization and translation of optimal solutions into single compounds to be delivered to our client partners.

Preclinical safety assessment

Alfa Cytology provides exploratory and good laboratory practice (GLP) compliant toxicity services that enable clients to evaluate the safety and toxicity profiles of their new small molecule drug candidates. Our preclinical safety assessment service team consists of experienced and skillful scientists who work closely with each other to deliver value by achieving the seamless integration of programs.

Alfa Cytology is a solution provider with a deep appreciation of both the challenges and the potential of your molecule. For more details on how we help our clients identify new ways to improve study design and anticipate development challenges, please feel free to contact us. We've got everything covered for your needs and look forward to working with you on your next project.


  1. Hoelder, Swen, Paul A. Clarke, and Paul Workman. "Discovery of small molecule cancer drugs: successes, challenges and opportunities." Molecular oncology 6.2 (2012): 155-176
  2. Sun, Guoqiang, et al. "Role of small molecule targeted compounds in cancer: progress, opportunities, and challenges." Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology 9 (2021): 694363.
  3. Sun, Jufeng, et al. "Small molecule inhibitors in pancreatic cancer." RSC medicinal chemistry 11.2 (2020): 164-183.
All of our services are intended for preclinical research use only and cannot be used to diagnose, treat or manage patients.