The researchers say that forcing cancer cells to drop their glutathione defences causes the oxidant levels to increase, and, consequently, the cancerous cells die.
"We know oxidants produce free radicals that damage cells. Our experiments show ruthenium produces a reaction in the cell which destroys its anti-oxidant defence glutathione - thus destroying the cancer-infected cell," said University of Warwick Chemistry Professor Peter Sadler.
"Working with colleagues in Edinburgh University and Oncosense we've proved this could be an effective line of defence against cancer," the researcher added.
The researchers hope to begin medical trials with this technique soon.