Drug Research
Drug Discovery & Development

New reusable treatment can destroy cancer cells more effectively and selectively

PBR Staff Writer Published 11 January 2018

Researchers from the University of Warwick have developed a new approach, using a substance found in stinging nettles & ants, to destroy cancer cells more effectively and selectively.

Under the leadership of Warwick’s Department of Chemistry professor Peter Sadler, the researchers have designed a new line of treatment against cancer by using an organic-osmium compound.

The compound can be activated through using a non-toxic dose of sodium formate, which is a natural product observed in multiple organisms such as nettles and ants.

Researchers have named the compound as JPC11, which destroys a metabolic process where cancer cells depend on to survive and multiply.

The process involves the conversion of a crucial substance, which is used by cancer cells to provide the energy required for rapid division (pyruvate), into an unnatural lactate. It leads to the destruction of cells.

According to researchers, the chemo-catalyst treatment can be recycled and reused within a cancer cell to attack it repeatedly.

The researchers are planning to use the reusable stinging nettle treatment for ovarian and prostate cancers, which are turning resistant to existing chemotherapy drugs such as cisplatin.

Sadler said: “Platinum compounds are the most widely used drugs for cancer chemotherapy, but we urgently need to respond to the challenges of circumventing resistance and side-effects.

“Our lab is focussed on the discovery of truly novel anticancer drugs which can kill cells in totally new ways. Chemo-catalysts, especially those with immunogenic properties, might provide a breakthrough.”

University of Warwick catalyst specialist professor Martin Wills said: “Although asymmetric catalytic hydrogenation processes are well developed in the materials industry, this research provides the first ever example of it being achieved inside cells using a synthetic catalyst.”


Image: Researchers have developed a reusable treatment to target cancer cells. Photo: courtesy of University of Warwick.