Researchers from the University of Waterloo in Canada have discovered a novel group of molecules that could wage war on cancerous cells and protect healthy cells. These molecules may be useful for treatments of many different cancer types, including cervical, breast, ovarian and lung cancers. The study appeared in EBioMedicine.
DNA damage can lead to cancerous cells that multiply and invade. DNA damage can occur due to a variety of factors, such as age, smoking and chemicals in the environment.
The scientists examined DNA damage using a method known as femtosecond time-resolved laser spectroscopy, a type of camera that allows investigators to monitor cells as DNA damage occurs, to see what processes may cause this. The technique is not new; but its use for spying on potentially cancerous cells is a novel use for femtosecond laser spectroscopy. The new field is called dubbed femtomedicine.
“We know DNA damage is the initial and crucial step in the development of cancer,” remarked Professor Qing-Bin Lu, lead author of the study from the University of Waterloo, Canada. “With the FMD approach we can go back to the very beginning to find out what causes DNA damage in the first place, then mutation, then cancer. FMD is promising as an efficient, economical and rational approach for discovering new drugs, as it can save resources required to synthesize and screen a large library of compounds.”
Professor Lu’s coworkers found new molecules, referred to as nonplatinum-based halogenated molecules, or FMD compounds. Interestingly, the naturally occurring molecules resemble cisplatin — a medication for ovarian, testicular, lung, brain and other cancers. Unlike cisplatin, which is extremely toxic, the new FMD compounds do not appear to harm healthy cells.
Fortunately, the FMD compounds also target cancerous cells, but actually raise levels of protective anti-oxidants in healthy cells, based on studies conducted by the researchers in normal and cancerous human cells, as well as in mice with experimentally-induced cancers. The cancer-types tested included cervical, ovarian, breast and lung cancers. The FMD compounds either stopped or slowed down the growth of all different tumor types.
“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,” noted Professor Lu. “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.”
“We want this discovery to help patients, and we plan to move it into clinical trials as soon as possible,” concluded Professor Lu.