Pharmaceutical 'smart bomb' targets cancer cells

even in cancer cells is used as the activator. When researchers insert a gene for this enzyme into cancer cells, the cells start to express the nitroreductase, making them an easy target. The prodrug "bomb" goes off and unleashes the toxin that spreads to neighboring cells which ultimately kills the tumor.

The English contingent also developed a compound that is being evaluated in clinical trials as an anticancer prodrug. But Hu's new compounds appear to be even more potent. The overseas researchers are now testing the Rutgers compounds, side by side with their own, delivering them in the enhanced prodrug packages.

Initial testing on mammalian hamster cells shows that after 72 hours of drug exposure, the Rutgers compounds were as much as 100 times more effective in inhibiting cell growth. One-hour tests were also performed and, again, the Rutgers compounds were found to be superior as much as 30 times more effective than the English compound. Eighteen-hour tests on human ovarian cancer cells showed a still significant, tenfold superiority.

"Our cytotoxic compounds delivered to the cancer site in a revamped prodrug form clearly show great potential, but there are still lots of tests to be done," said Hu. "There are many preclinical studies ahead of us. If everything goes well, we could see clinical trials in humans in a couple of years."

Hu says that these compounds are not going to cure cancer by themselves. But they will be significant tools, most probably used in combination with other technologies one bullet of many in the arsenal of anticancer weapons.


Contact: Joseph Blumberg
732-932-7084 Ext. 652
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

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