New Family Of Molecules Protect Healthy Cells While Destroying Cancerous Ones

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Written by Kelsey on June 16, 2015. Posted in Blog

New Molecules

Scientists at the University of Waterloo in Canada published a study that shows a new family of molecules targets and kills cancer cells while generating a protective effect against toxic chemicals in healthy cells.

These new molecules could be used to treat different cancers, such as cervical, breast, ovarian, and lung tumors.

It is widely understood that cells become cancerous when their DNA is damaged. While the damage can be caused by a wide range of factors, understanding what happens at the exact moment the DNA is damaged will help scientists create new, more effective cancer treatments.

Using the FMD approach, the researchers discovered a new family of molecules called nonplatinum-based halogenate molecules (FMD compounds). They are similar to cisplatin, which is used to treat the previously mentioned cancers but is highly toxic. The new compounds are not detrimental to normal cells.

According to GEN News, when these compounds enter a cancer cell, they react strongly and form reactive radicals, which cause the cell to kill itself. When they enter a healthy cell, the cell starts to increase the amount of glutathione (GSH) in the cell, which protects the cell against chemical toxins.

FMD, or femtomedicine, is a new field derived from fusing femtosecond laser spectroscopy with molecular biology and cell biology methods in order to further the understanding of cancers and how therapies work to treat them.

Researchers examined the process of DNA damage using femtosecond time-resolved laser spectroscopy. This method uses two pulses of light, one to start a reaction and the other to monitor the way molecules react. From this, scientists were able to see how molecules interact and exactly how cells become cancerous.

"We know DNA damage is the initial and crucial step in the development of cancer," said Qing-Bin Lu, Ph.D., lead author of the study. "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."

The compounds were tested in human and mice cells with consistent results. After testing levels of GSH in the cells, scientists learned that the amount of protective molecule increased in normal cells while it decreased in cancer cells.

From testing in mouse tumors, the researchers found that the FMD compounds were effective at slowing down or even halting tumor growth.

"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," said Dr. Lu. "We believe that it could potentially be used to treat a very wide range of cancers, without making patients suffer the toxic side effects that some existing drugs have."

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