A compound called Organo-Osmium FY26 kills cancer cells by locating and attacking their weakest part.
This is the first time that an osmium-based compound—which is fifty times more active than the current cancer drug cisplatin—has been seen to target the disease.
Using the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), researchers analyzed the effects of Organo-Osmium FY26 in ovarian cancer cells—detecting emissions of X-ray fluorescent light to track the activity of the compound inside the cells.
Scientists could see an unprecedented level of minute detail and could detect organelles like mitochondria, which are the powerhouses of cells.
In cancer cells, there are errors and mutations in the DNA of mitochondria, making them very weak and susceptible to attack. FY26 positioned itself in the mitochondria, attacking and destroying the vital functions of cancer cells from within, at their weakest point.
Fewer side effects?
Researchers were also able to see natural metals that are produced by the body—such as zinc and calcium—moving around the cells. Calcium in particular is known to affect the function of cells, and it is thought that this naturally produced metal helps FY26 to achieve an optimal position for attacking cancer.
More than half of all cancer chemotherapy treatments currently use platinum compounds, which were introduced nearly 40 years ago, so there is a need to explore the benefits other precious metals could bring.
Although this research was conducted on ovarian cancer cells, the results are applicable to a wider range of cancers.
FY26 has been shown to be more selective between normal cells and cancer cells than cisplatin—having a greater effect on cancer cells than on healthy ones.
Study leader Peter Sandler, a chemistry professor at the University of Warwick, says the research might lead to new cancer treatments. “Cancer drugs with new mechanisms of actions [that] can combat resistance and have fewer side effects are urgently needed,” says Sandler.
The results appear in Chemistry: A European Journal. Grants from Cancer Research UK & Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, The Wellcome Trust, and the European Research Council funded the work.
Source: University of Warwick