Life Sciences

Organo-metal Compound Kills Cancer Cells from Inside

16 February 2017

Using advanced nano-imaging technology, UK scientists say they’ve witnessed a newly developed organo-metal compound targeting and killing cancer cells from the inside.

The compound, discovered at the University of Warwick, is said to be 50 times more active than the conventional cancer drug Cisplatin and more discriminating between healthy cells and cancer cells. Organo-Osmium FY26, as the compound is known, attacks the weakest part of cancer cells.

Ovarian cancer cells under nano-focus (2-micron scale) showing compound FY26, zinc and calcium. Credit: University of WarwickOvarian cancer cells under nano-focus (2-micron scale) showing compound FY26, zinc and calcium. Credit: University of WarwickTo observe how the compound works, researchers went to the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France, to study its effects on ovarian cancer cells. Looking at sections of cancer cells under nano-focus, researchers say it was possible to see an unprecedented level of minute detail.

In cancer cells, there are errors and mutations in the DNA of mitochondria, making them weak and susceptible to attack, researchers explained. FY26 was observed positioning itself in the mitochondria - attacking and destroying the vital functions of cancer cells from within, at their weakest point.

Researchers also were able to see the natural metals the body produces, such as zinc and calcium, moving around the cells. Calcium, in particular, is known to affect the function of cells. Researchers believe this naturally produced metal helps FY26 to achieve an optimal position for attacking cancer.

This observation, researchers say, brought into focus the need for scientists to explore other precious metals that could help fight cancer, since more than half of all cancer therapy treatments currently use platinum compounds that were induced decades ago.

Although this research was conducted on ovarian cancer cells, the results are applicable to a wider range of cancers, researchers say.

“Cancer drugs with new mechanisms of actions which can combat resistance and have fewer side effects are urgently needed,” says research leader Peter Sadler, a professor of chemistry at the University of Warwick.

“The advanced nano-focused x-ray beam at ESRF has not only allowed us to locate the site of action of our novel Organo-Osmium FY26 candidate drug in cancer cells at unprecedented resolution, but also study the movement of natural metals such as zinc and calcium in cells. Such studies open up totally new approaches to drug discovery and treatment.”

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