Killer new cancer drug combines chemotherapy and light therapy
There’s no one way to kill cancer. Doctors use everything from radiation to chemicals to light-reactive particles, with mixed results based on various factors. Now, a new study has combined two approaches – chemotherapy and light therapy – into one drug, with promising results.
Chemotherapy involves introducing drugs into the body to fight cancer, and one of the most commonly used is known as cisplatin. This drug binds to the DNA of tumor cells and messes with its structure, until it kills the cells.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT), on the other hand, works by introducing a metal complex into the tumor, then zapping it with laser light. That creates reactive oxygen species, which are known to react with and destroy cells.
For the new study, researchers at the Paris Sciences et Lettres (PSL) University and Hebrew University have combined the two methods into one drug they call Ru-Pt. The chemotherapy component is cisplatin, along with phenylbutyrate, another chemical that enhances cisplatin’s effects. The PDT part is a ruthenium(II) metal complex.
The two components are connected with a molecular spacer, carefully designed to be just the right length so they don’t interfere with each other’s work. The idea is that once the combo reaches the site of a tumor, the chemo part is activated by the conditions there, while a laser light with a deep red wavelength is shone on the area to activate the PDT part.
The team tested the double treatment on culture-grown healthy and cancer cells, and found that Ru-Pt was able to destroy far more cancer cells than either therapy alone. In fact, the combo drug worked well on cancer cell lines that were resistant to other drugs, killing up to 10 times more of these cells than the individual treatments could.
These first results are promising, but the usual disclaimer applies. After all, it was only conducted on cells in the lab, so there’s still a long road ahead before it can be tested in humans.
The research was published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.