A new class of drugs which kills cancers but causes minimal side-effects is being developed by researchers.
"These new agents attack a fundamental characteristic of cancer cells while leaving normal cells alone," said Des Richardson, professor from the Bosch Institute in Sydney Medical School. He heads the Iron Metabolism and Chelation programme at the Sydney University, Australia.
"They work by binding the iron in tumour cells, preventing them from growing. We believe they have the potential to be an effective new strategy, to be 'next generation' drugs, for a range of cancers including highly aggressive pancreatic cancer," added Richardshon.
Because they do not act on non-cancerous cells, these new agents dramatically minimise a range of distressing side-effects linked with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the Journal of Biological Chemistry reports.
The latest study, led by post-doctoral researcher Zaklina Kovacevic, outlined how these new agents increase the levels of a molecule (NDRG1) that inhibits the spread of cancer, including prostate and colon cancers, according to a Sydney statement.
"Together with a recent article in the journal, Antioxidants and Redox Signaling, these studies advance our knowledge of cancer cell biology and how we can target specific molecules to stop cancer progressing," Kovacevic said.
Richardson is currently in advanced discussions on a licensing deal with an American company for developing the compound to the stage of clinical trials.