Double action cancer drugs

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  • Published: May 13, 2015
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: UV/Vis Spectroscopy

A set of new anticancer drugs have been prepared that can kill cancer cells while protecting healthy cells, according to new research published as an open-access article in EBioMedicine. They are described as cisplatin analogues but do not contain platinum, eliminating the high toxicity associated with this set of drugs.

The complex structures contain an aromatic ring in place of the platinum ion. The ring is coordinated to two amino groups acting as electron transfer promoters and at least one halogen atom. Their discovery was aided by femtosecond time-resolved laser spectroscopy which allows the interaction of compounds at the cellular level to be investigated in real time. This type of research was dubbed femtomedicine (FMD) and the compounds were nicknamed FMD compounds.

In tests on human cells, the research team found that the compounds form reactive free radicals within the cells which induce the cells to self-destruct. In healthy cells, the compounds increase the levels of glutathione, a simple peptide that protects against the cells against toxins. The compounds were also effective in mice with cervical, ovarian, breast and lung cancers, slowing the growth of tumours or killing them altogether.

"We're very excited about our discovery; we can see that the FMD compounds are just as effective as cisplatin in mice but without being toxic," said lead author Qing-Bin Lu from the University of Waterloo in Canada. "We believe that it could potentially be used to treat a very wide rage of cancers, without making patients suffer the toxic side effects that some existing drugs have."

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