A synthetic detergent found in commonly used household cleansers could be effective in treating multi-drug resistance, according to a University of Toronto study published in the June issue of the American Journal of Physiology.
The detergent reduces the amount of chemotherapy drugs required to treat multi-drug resistance by blocking a drug pump in cancer cells. The researchers found the synthetic detergent in human urine while looking at the role of the drug pump in the kidney.
"We're very surprised by these findings," says lead investigator Dr. Jeffrey Charuk of the department of medicine. "While the synthetic chemical is probably too low to interfere with the action of the drug pump it might be a useful adjunct to standard chemotherapy treatments, along with other relatively non-toxic detergents."
"Detergents are composed of compounds that can be chemically synthesized to suit your needs," says Charuk. "With our study completed, the next critical step is for clinicians to evaluate the use of these compounds in treating cancer."
Charuk collected his own urine for three years to determine the role of the drug pump in the kidney. Together with co-investigators Dr. Reinhart Reithmeier of the department of medicine and Dr. Arthur Grey of the department of medical genetics and microbiology he developed a sensitive test to detect the compound by nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectroscopy. The test revealed the synthetic detergent, nonylphenolethoxylate (NPE), a common component in hard surface and household cleansers, is present in human urine. The detergent can be absorbed into the body through skin when it contacts people's hands or it can be ingested when people eat from dishes that have been washed with the compound.
"The effect of long-term exposure to the detergent needs to be studied,"
explained Charuk, who also notes further research is needed to show how the
biodegradation of detergents l
Contact: Jeff Charuk
University of Toronto