SEP 11, 2020 6:00 AM PDT

Taking cancer treatment from a whole new angle

New cancer research is looking at treatment for the disease from an entirely new angle: structurally. While chemotherapy and radiation aim to destroy and inhibit metastasis cancer cells by impeding biochemical processes in the body, scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Polymer Research are interested in disrupting cancer cells’ structures. Their findings were published recently in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

"We have now tried to take a different approach and not to influence the cancer by interfering with the biochemical processes, but to attack its structure directly," says Dr. David Ng, group leader in Professor Tanja Weil's laboratory at the institute.

The idea is to eliminate the need for chemotherapy, a process which is stressful for the patient both physiologically and emotionally. Chemotherapy has many side effects and also has the downfall of allowing cancer cells to adapt to the drugs, thus producing resistant cells.  

To do this, the researchers have developed a molecular brick they are referring to as a Lego. The molecular Lego itself is not harmful and can move among and in healthy and cancerous cells. When it is in a healthy cell, there is no reaction; however, when the Lego moves into a cancerous cell, it recognizes the tumorous microenvironment and triggers a series of chemical reactions.

"In cancer tissue, the environment is much more acidic than in normal tissue," says Ng. "In addition, much more highly reactive oxidative molecules are found within the cancer cells due to the cancer's increased metabolic activity - and we take advantage of that."

Under these conditions, Lego bricks can join together within a cancer cell and create a stable brick web that ultimately adversely changes the cell’s internal structure. Under such physical duress, the cancer cell ends up pulling its own apoptosis trigger. "We thus attack the cancer cell in a way it cannot defend itself against," comments Ng.

Photo: Pexels

The team has shown that this attack method works consistently on cancer cells in a laboratory culture setting, demonstrating that the cells die off within roughly four hours. They say they will continue to investigate their technique in order to fine-tune the biodegradation of the Lego bricks in the body after cell death.

Sources: Journal of the American Chemical Society, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
NOV 15, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Novel Cancer-Driving Genes are Discovered
NOV 15, 2020
Novel Cancer-Driving Genes are Discovered
Cells have to be able to divide so new ones can replenish cells that get worn out, dysfunctional, or that accumulate dam ...
NOV 23, 2020
Cancer
Where are the geographic hotspots of high mortality rates for women with colorectal cancer?
NOV 23, 2020
Where are the geographic hotspots of high mortality rates for women with colorectal cancer?
A study published in Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology highlights the risk disparities in death rates fro ...
DEC 18, 2020
Cancer
More need for rehabilitation services in cancer care
DEC 18, 2020
More need for rehabilitation services in cancer care
A study published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians highlights the need for improved rehabilitation services in onc ...
DEC 23, 2020
Cancer
Using AI to identify new measures of mammography
DEC 23, 2020
Using AI to identify new measures of mammography
New findings published in the International Journal of Cancer from the University of Melbourne report that new mamm ...
DEC 25, 2020
Immunology
A High-Fat Diet Starves Immune Cells, Tumor Growth Goes Unchecked
DEC 25, 2020
A High-Fat Diet Starves Immune Cells, Tumor Growth Goes Unchecked
  Sitting down to enjoy an indulgent Christmas feast? A recent study in mice by Harvard Medicine scientists found t ...
JAN 21, 2021
Cancer
Whole body MRI shown to be most sensitive in detecting myeloma
JAN 21, 2021
Whole body MRI shown to be most sensitive in detecting myeloma
New research suggests that whole body magnetic resonance imaging (WBMRI) is a more effective detection method than other ...
Loading Comments...