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Meteorites and explosions in cancer breakthroughs

Friday March 21st, 2014

A precious metal widely used in modern electronics could hold the key to a "revolution" in cancer treatment, British researchers claimed yesterday.

A drug based on the metal iridium could be ten times as powerful as existing treatments for a range of cancers including those melanoma and those affecting the colon, kidneys and ovaries, scientists at Warwick University said.

The researchers say their new drug can manipulate the body's natural signalling and energy systems.

Its effect is to cause the energy systems in cancer cells to overload, they reported.

Details of the drug, known as ZL105, were reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

Iridium is a rare metal found mainly in meteorite deposits and mined as a by-product of nickel and copper mining.

Although it is a member of the platinum group of minerals, the scientists say their new drug may not be as toxic as platinum drugs.

Researcher Professor Peter Sadler said: "Existing cancer treatments often become less effective after the first course, as cancer cells learn how they are being attacked.

"The drug we have developed is a catalyst and is active at low doses. It can attack cancer cells in multiple ways at the same time, so the cancer is less able to adapt to the treatment. This means the new drugs could be much more effective than existing treatments."

He added: "Platinum-based drugs are used in nearly 50% of all chemotherapeutic regimens, exert their activity by damaging DNA and cannot select between cancerous and non-cancerous cells, leading to a wide-range of side-effects from renal failure to neurotoxicity, ototoxicity, nausea and vomiting.

"In contrast, the new iridium-based drug is specifically designed not to attack DNA, but to have a novel mechanism of action, meaning that it could not only dramatically slow down and halt cancer growth, but also significantly reduce the side effects suffered by patients."

Fellow researcher Dr Isolda Romero-Canelon said: "The energy-producing machinery in cancer cells works to the limit as it attempts to keep up with quick proliferation and invasion. This makes cancer cells susceptible to minor changes in the cell power-house.

"Our drug pushes cancer cells over the limit causing them to slow and shut down, whilst normal cells can cope with its effects."

* In a second report yesterday Swedish researchers reported the discovery of a chemical which makes brain cancer cells "explode."

The researchers at the Karolinska Institutet and colleagues at Uppsala University reported successful tests of the substance, Vacquinol-1, on laboratory mice in the journal Cell.

Researcher Professor Patrik Ernfors said: "This is an entirely new mechanism for cancer treatment. A possible medicine based on this principle would therefore attack the glioblastoma in an entirely new way. This principle may also work for other cancer diseases, we have not really explored this yet."

The Potent Oxidant Anticancer Activity of Organoiridium Catalysts Angewandte Chemie International Edition 20 March 2014 [abstract]

Vulnerability of glioblastoma cells to catastrophic vacuolization and death induced by a small molecule. Cell 20 March 2014

Tags: Cancer | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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