According to news reports, scientists in Scotland have successfully tested a new medicine that can destroy cancer cells while leaving healthy tissue unaffected.
The University of Edinburgh researchers mixed a small cancer-killing drug called SeNBD with a chemical food product that fooled cancer cells into consuming it. According to The Herald, the combo has been termed a “Trojan Horse.”
Zebrafish and human cells were used in the peer-reviewed study. More research is needed, according to the experts, to discover if it is safe to use to treat early-stage cancer and even drug-resistant germs.
“Cancerous cells are ‘greedy’ and need to consume high amounts of food for energy and they typically ingest more than healthy cells, said the University of Edinburgh. By coupling SeNBD with a chemical food compound it becomes the ‘ideal prey for harmful cells’ which ingest it ‘without being alerted to its toxic nature,’” the Herald reported.
SeNBD is a light-activated “photosensitizer,” meaning it destroys cells when activated by light, according to researchers. Surgeons might utilize the combination to exclusively target cancer cells, leaving healthy cells alone.
“Switching on the drug with light means a surgeon could decide exactly where they want the drug to be active, avoiding the chances of attacking healthy tissue and preventing the kind of side effects caused by other drugs,” said the university.
“Coupling the drug with a food compound is key to its success. For cells to survive, they must consume chemical components of food – known as metabolites – such as sugars and amino acids for energy,” the university said in a press release. Bacterial and cancer cells “consume higher concentrations and different types of metabolites than healthy cells. Pairing SeNBD with a metabolite makes it ideal prey for harmful cells. Until now, most light-activated drugs have been bigger than metabolites, which means bacteria and cancer cells do not recognize them as normal food.”
“This research represents an important advance in the design of new therapies that can be simply activated by light irradiation, which is generally very safe,” said by Professor Marc Vendrell, the university’s chairman of translational chemistry and biomedical imaging, was the principal researcher.
“SeNBD is one of the smallest photosensitizers ever made and its use as a ‘Trojan horse’ opens many new opportunities in interventional medicine for killing harmful cells without affecting surrounding healthy tissue,” he said.
Dr. Sam Benson, another researcher, explained that the medicine is given through the “front door of the cell.”
“With SeNBD, we can combine a light-activated drug with the food that cancerous and bacterial cells normally eat. This means we can deliver our ‘Trojan horse’ directly through the front door of the cell rather than trying to find a way to batter through the cell’s defenses,” Benson said.