According to a team of experts from the University of Warwick, it may be that using the transition metallic elements Ruthenium and Osmium could lead to the creation of new and improved drugs for conditions such as colon and ovarian cancer. The new drugs may be especially effective against cancerous cells that have already developed immunity to other therapies, the scientists add. Their work is detailed in the latest issue of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, e! Science News
Ovarian cancer cells are, for example, currently fought with the drug Cisplatin, which is the most successful transition metal form of therapy created. It relies on the metal platinum, but it can be ineffective against cancer, in that some cells become resistant to its effect, rendering the entire treatment useless. In instances where this has happened, medicine relying on Osmium and Ruthenium seems to cause a significant cell death, increasing a patient's chances of recovery.
“Ruthenium and Osmium compounds are showing very high levels of activity against ovarian cancer, which is a significant step forward in the field of medicinal chemistry,” University of Leeds School of Chemistry expert and lead author of the paper Dr. Patrick McGowan explains. “Most interestingly, cancerous cells that have shown resistance to the most successful transition metal drug, Cisplatin, show a high death rate with these new compounds,” UW Department of Chemistry lead researcher Sabine H. van Rijt adds. She works in the laboratory of Professor Peter Sadler.
“[I am] excited by the novel design features in these compounds which might enable activity to be switched on and off,” Sadler says. In transition metal drugs, the chemicals bind to DNA in targeted cells, and cause apoptosis, a process also known as programmed cell death. Apparently, Osmium and Ruthenium are a lot better at it than platinum is, the team reveals. The work was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).