Researchers find promising cancer-fighting power of synthetic cell-signaling molecule

Novel anti-cancer compounds called Enigmols suppress the growth of human cell lines representing cancers of the prostate, breast, colon, ovary, pancreas, brain and blood, and reduce tumors in three animal studies, new research shows.

In addition, Enigmols did not show side effects at effective doses, according to the research conducted at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University and Wayne State University. The studies were funded by the National Cancer Institute.

"Many agents suppress cancer cells in a Petri dish and then not in the whole animal, or have unacceptably high toxicity for normal tissues," said Georgia Tech Professor of Biology Al Merrill. "Finding that Enigmols are effective in three animal models leads us to hope these may be a new approach to treat cancer." However, human trials must still be done to determine safety and efficacy in people, the researchers cautioned.

The findings will be presented by Georgia Tech postdoctoral researcher Qiong Peng on April 19 in a "late-breaking" poster at the American Association for Cancer Research 96th Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif. After considering comments from other scientists at the meeting, the researchers plan to submit the results to a scientific journal in coming weeks.

Enigmols are synthetic analogs of sphingolipids, a group of cell-signaling molecules that help cells decide whether to grow or die via a controlled process called apoptosis. Cancer cells are usually defective in these regulatory pathways, so researchers hypothesized that structurally modified sphingolipid analogs might be even better at making cancer cells behave more normally.

Merrill and his collaborators have been studying sphingolipids for more than a decade, having first shown that sphingolipids in food, such as low-fat dairy products and soybeans, suppress tumors in mouse models for colon cancer. Encouraged by these findings, Emory University Professor of Chemistry Dennis

Contact: Jane M. Sanders
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News

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