Researchers have identified a possible way of treating tumours that would see doctors place harmless metal implants at the cancer site.The discovery could make treatment more targeted than existing therapies, avoiding unwanted side effects, such as hair loss, tiredness and nausea. These occur when chemotherapy drugs carried in the blood kill healthy cells as well as cancer cells. The scientists found that they could alter the chemical composition of commonly used chemotherapy drugs so that they only become active when they come into contact with a metal called palladium.
Scientists have developed modified chemotherapy drugs that are designed to remain inactive until they come into contact with a palladium implant located at the tumor site. The hope is that this approach could help to reduce the side effects associated with treatment by minimizing damage to the rest of the body.
Credit: Asier Unciti-Broceta
The research was led by scientists from the Edinburgh Cancer Research UK Centre at the MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, the University of Edinburgh.
Dr Asier Unciti-Broceta, who led the study, said: "It will be several years before we're able to start treating patients but we're hopeful that this approach will lead to better tolerated cancer therapies in the future."
Weiss et al., (2014). Extracellular palladium-catalysed dealkylation of 5-fluoro-1-propargyl-uracil as a bioorthogonally activated prodrug approach. Nat. Comm., 5:3277 doi:10.1038/ncomms4277 [Article]