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Hitting a new target in cancer cells
Cancer cells watch out. A new way to fight cancer works by disrupting mitochondria, crucial energy-generating structures inside cells. “We hope our work will inspire the development of new anti-cancer drugs for precise and efficient therapy,” says Xian-Zheng Zhang, who was part of the research team at Wuhan University, China. The results are reported in the journal Materials Today Chemistry.
"Traditionally, the therapeutic targets of anti-cancer agents have been the DNA or proteins within cancer cells,” says Zhang. Instead, his work uses "ethidium derivative" compounds to initiate a cascade of molecular events affecting cancer cells’ mitochondria. These include a reduction in the production of ATP, the key energy currency within cells, destroying the normal electrochemical balance within the mitochondria and releasing a key component of the programmed cell death (apoptosis) system called cytochrome C. Without properly functioning mitochondria, cells cannot produce energy and so eventually die.
The ability to specifically target mitochondria was a rather unexpected discovery. “To our surprise, we found the molecules were selectively diverted into the mitochondria of cancer cells,” says Zhang. They had originally been expected to accumulate in a cell’s nucleus and bind to its DNA, since they contain a structural feature known to have DNA-binding properties.
Along with precision, their attack has an additional advantage of helping diagnosis. This is known as a “theranostics” capability – therapy and diagnostics combined. This stems from a fluorescent tag built into the molecules that lights up cancer cells, thereby helping to locate the cancer and also monitor the progress of treatment.
The researchers believe that their molecules have the potential to “present a new paradigm for developing unique anti-cancer theranostic agents.” By showing that it is possible to disrupt mitochondria, other researchers will start looking at that option too.
The team have already observed good cell-killing and anti-proliferation activity in cells. Additionally, they have uncovered many chemical details of the molecular mechanisms behind the anti-cancer effects. This understanding should help work to refine the therapeutic effects and also to develop other related and perhaps even more effective compounds.
They have also done trials with mice with cancer, which has shown the molecules are effective cancer fighters, with no obvious undesirable side effects. After 13 days of treatment by drug injection, the mice had tumor masses that were 35% or less of the mass of those tumors in untreated mice. Further research is needed to explore if this suppression of cancer can be continued and improved upon. The promise of fighting cancer while perhaps leaving healthy cells undamaged could avoid the “collateral damage” to healthy tissue that complicates and limits the use of many anti-cancer treatments.
Zhang hopes to move to clinical trials with people with cancer in the future. Before reaching that stage, the effects of higher doses in animals need to be studied, and followed for longer times, while looking out for damaging side effects. The early results suggest Zhang and his colleagues may have found a promising new treatment and diagnostic tool.
Zhang, Xian-Zheng et al.: "Mitochondria targeted cancer therapy using ethidium derivatives," Materials Today Chemistry (2017)
Elsevier awards researchers and research organizations throughout the world who have been credited with outstanding achievements and are making a significant contribution to the advancement of their field, thereby having a positive influence on our society.
The prizes are a tribute to the men and women who have contributed to the progress of humanity through their dedication to science. Serving as a source of inspiration, the awards help raise the profile of talented individuals and the organizations, in addition to the profession as a whole.
Elsevier is proud to support the following awards in materials science:
Energy Storage Materials Lecture Award – Energy Storage Materials
Acta Gold Medal Awards in Material Science - Acta Materialia Acta Gold Medal Awards in Material Science – Acta BiomaterialiaMaterials Today Cover Competition Materials Science and Engineering C: Young Researcher Award – Materials Science and Engineering: C
Carbon Journal Prize – Carbon
Young Scholar Prize – Diamond and Related Materials
John H. Dillon Medal – Polymer
Feng Xinde Polymer Prize for Best Chinese Paper – Polymer Materials Science and Engineering: A Journal Prize – Materials Science and Engineering: A
Nano Today Cover Competition: Nano Today Biomaterials: A Year in Images – Biomaterials
Robert Cahn Award – Journal of Nuclear Materials
Nano Today Award – Nano Today
Hermen F. Mark Award – Polymer
Hermen Mark Scholar Awards - Polymer
Department of Mechanical Engineering under the aegis of Lovely Professional University is organizing an International Conference on Composite Materials: Manufacturing, Experimental Techniques, Modeling and Simulation(ICCMMEMS) from March 01 to 03, 2018.
Globalization provides all around development and this development is impossible without technological contributions. Hence, the present conference aims at providing a leading forum for sharing original research contributions and practical developments in the field of Composite Materials so as to contribute its share for technological advancements.
Objectives of the Conference
- The main objective of the conference is to provide a unique platform to facilitate the scientists, researchers, academicians, industrialists and students to share the recent advancements and the challenges in technological development of composite materials.
- To exchange Innovative Ideas among the researchers in the area of composite materials from all around the world.
- To provide an opportunity to national and international experts and industry leaders to share their experiences and success stories.
View our latest article selections:
Article Selection: Materials Science in China
Read a selection of high quality research and review papers about China