New Class of Molecules Kills Cancer Cells, Saves Healthy Ones
WATERLOO, Ontario, May 13 (UPI) — The most effective drugs in the battle against cancer work well, but kill good cells in the body while also eliminating the bad. Now, a researcher has found a class of molecules that causes cancer cells to die while protecting healthy ones.
Using femtosecond time-resolved laser spectroscopy, University of Waterloo Faculty of Science professor Qing-Bin Lu studied when DNA becomes damaged, how cancer treatment drugs interact with cells, and tested molecules that may be able to eliminate cancer without harming healthy cells.
Lu’s use of the laser to provide treatment on the molecular and cellular level is part of a new field of science called femtomedicine. The approach is expected to allow researchers to begin to understand much more about how cancer happens and how drugs interact with cells in the body.
“We know DNA damage is the initial step,” said Professor Lu in a press release. “With the novel femtomedicine approach we can go back to the very beginning to find out what causes DNA damage in the first place, then mutation, and then cancer.”
Lu used the laser to learn how DNA is damaged, and then began watching the ways that more traditional radiation therapy and chemotherapy work. He especially paid attention to the drug Cisplatin, a widely used platinum-based form of chemotherapy. Cisplatin is effective against ovarian, testicular, lung, brain and other cancers, however platinum can also damage kidneys and cause nausea and vomiting, among other side effects.
The new family of molecules which future drugs may be based on, nonplatinum-based halogenated molecules, referred to as FMD compounds, causes contacted cancer cells to self-destruct. When the FMD compounds enter a healthy cell, however, the cell produces a protective molecule that keeps it from being damaged.
Researchers tested the compounds on several types of tumors in mice, finding the FMD slowed down or stopped the growth of cancer cells.
“It is extremely rare to discover anti-cancer agents that can selectively kill cancer cells and protect healthy cells, as well as being effective in treating many different types of cancer and having a novel molecular mechanism of action. These candidate drugs should have a high potential to pass through clinical trials and could ultimately save lives,” said Professor Lu.
Lu’s research was published this month by EBioMedicine.