More than half of all cancer chemotherapy treatments currently use
platinum compounds, which were introduced nearly 40 years ago, so there
is a need to explore the benefits which other precious metals could
Researchers have witnessed - for the first time - cancer cells being
targeted and destroyed from the inside, by an organo-metal compound
discovered by the University of Warwick.
‘Cancer cells are being targeted and killed from the inside with metal-based compound - Organo-Osmium FY26. It attacks the weakest part of cancer cells, and is 50x more active than metal drugs used in current cancer treatments.’
Professor Peter J. Sadler, and his group in the Department of
Chemistry, have demonstrated that Organo-Osmium FY26 - which was first
discovered at Warwick - kills cancer cells by locating and attacking
their weakest part.
This is the first time that an Osmium-based compound - which is
fifty times more active than the current cancer drug cisplatin - has
been seen to target the disease.
Using the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF),
researchers analyzed the effects of Organo-Osmium FY26 in ovarian cancer
cells - detecting emissions of X-ray fluorescent light to track the
activity of the compound inside the cells.
Looking at sections of cancer cells under nano-focus, it was
possible to see an unprecedented level of minute detail. Organelles like
mitochondria, which are the 'powerhouses' of cells and generate their
energy, were detectable.
In cancer cells, there are errors and mutations in the DNA of mitochondria, making them very weak and susceptible to attack.
FY26 was found to have positioned itself in the mitochondria -
attacking and destroying the vital functions of cancer cells from
within, at their weakest point.
Researchers were also able to see natural metals which are produced
by the body - such as zinc and calcium - moving around the cells.
Calcium in particular is known to affect the function of cells, and it
is thought that this naturally-produced metal helps FY26 to achieve an
optimal position for attacking cancer.
Although this research was conducted on ovarian cancer cells, the
ground-breaking results are applicable to a wider range of cancers.
FY26 has been shown to be more selective between normal cells and
cancer cells than cisplatin - having a greater effect on cancer cells
than on healthy ones.
Professor Sadler comments that this research could lead to new cancer treatments. He said, "Cancer drugs with new mechanisms of actions which can combat resistance and have fewer side-effects are urgently needed. The advanced nano-focussed x-ray beam at ESRF has not only allowed
us to locate the site of action of our novel Organo-Osmium FY26
candidate drug in cancer cells at unprecedented resolution, but also
study the movement of natural metals such as zinc and calcium in cells.
Such studies open up totally new approaches to drug discovery and
Professor Sadler's group, including research fellows Dr Carlos
Sanchez and Dr Isolda Romero Canelon, gained their results with Dr Peter
Cloetens and colleagues at the ESRF in Grenoble, France - a powerful
synchrotron source which emits extremely powerful X-ray beams.
Dr Peter Cloetens comments on the process:
"These kinds of experiments are normally performed using bigger
doses than what would be done in real life or on a coarse scale that
does not provide a clear picture of the processes that take place. On
the new nano-imaging ID16A beamline, however, by combining a very tight
focus and high flux, we could get a real picture of where the drug goes
in a single cell using real-life pharmacological doses."