Researchers spend a significant amount of time trying to find the most effective way to kill cancer cells, especially in aggressive cancers like mesothelioma. Anti-cancer drugs are designed to get into the bloodstream and attack the cell bodies, eventually overwhelming them and leading to their death. Now, researchers report they have found a way to kill cancer cells from the inside out, attacking them at their weakest point.
In a Feb. 13 press release from the University of Warwick, researchers report they have been able to watch cancer cells being targeted and destroyed from the inside by the compound Organo-Osmium FY26.
The researchers used the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), the most intense source of synchrotron-generated light, producing X-rays 100 billion times brighter than the X-rays used in hospitals, to look at sections of cancer cells under nano-focus and saw “an unprecedented level of minute detail.” Specifically, mitochondria, which are the powerhouses of cells and generate their energy, were detectable.
According to the researchers, due to the errors and mutations in the DNA of mitochondria they are very weak and susceptible to attack. The osmium-based FY26 took advantage of this and “positioned itself” there, ultimately attacking and destroying the vital functions of cancer cells from within.
According to the researchers, Organo-Osmium FY26 is 50 times more active than the platinum-based drug cisplatin, used to treat many cancers including lung cancer and mesothelioma. It is also more selective than the platinum-based drugs by reaching the cancer cells and leaving the healthy cells alone. The chemotherapy standard of care for pleural mesothelioma is the combination therapy of pemetrexed and cisplatin, sometimes augmented with bevacizumab.
Pleural mesothelioma is an aggressive, terminal cancer found in the lining of the lungs in patients previously exposed to asbestos. Although chemotherapy is one of the primary treatment protocols for the disease, mesothelioma patients nearly always develop resistance to the drugs. However, studies like this where research is done to identify new treatments to increase drug sensitivity can lead to an increase in patient survival.
“Cancer drugs with new mechanisms of actions which can combat resistance and have fewer side-effects are urgently needed,” said lead author Professor Peter J. Sadler, of the Department of Chemistry. “Such studies open up totally new approaches to drug discovery and treatment.”
Read the full study in the Jan. 26 issue of Chemistry, A European Journal.