NOV 19, 2020 7:39 AM PST

New technique to synthesize phenazines offers hope for cancer treatments

Research from Tokyo University of Science investigators highlights new accomplishments in the fight against cancer. The study, published in American Chemical Society Omega and led by Professor Kouji Kuramochi, explains how a group of organic compounds called phenazines can be synthesized.

Phenazines are a large group of nitrogen-containing "heterocycles" of which there are over a hundred naturally-occurring and over 6,000 that can be "synthesized." Within the group, a subcategory known as N-alkylphenazin-1-ones (phenazinones) are of particular interest to cancer researchers because of their antibacterial, antifungal, and cytotoxic properties.

"Pyocyanin, lavanducyanin, lavanducyanin-derived WS-9659 A, WS-9659 B, and marinocyanins A and B, all different types of phenazines, show cytotoxic activities, against cancer cells. However, these compounds are difficult to derive from their natural sources such as bacteria," explains Professor Kuramochi.

The technique that the team has developed to circumnavigate this synthesis dilemma could offer an alternative to the current technique used for synthesis, which produces undesired N-alkyl-4-chlorophenazin-1-ones during the process. Furthermore, the researchers think the technique could be useful not only in anti-cancer treatments. Professor Kuramochi says:

"We have established a highly versatile synthetic method that is simple and can be applied to the synthesis of many natural products. Since the oxidative coupling reaction proceeds only with oxygen, it is an environmentally friendly synthetic method."

Photo: Pexels

The team’s method has proven to be four times more selectively toxic to cancer cells than normal cells. However, before it can be introduced into standard medical practice, it will be necessary to verify the effects of phenazinones in animal studies and clinical trials first.

Sources: ACS Omega, Science Daily

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.
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