Czech scientists find hope for improved cancer treatment

A major advance in cancer treatment may be on the way, thanks in part to the work of Czech scientists. Researchers from the Czech Academy of Sciences in collaboration with colleagues in the UK have made significant progress in developing chemotherapy that is free of side effects.

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For many cancer sufferers, the first horror is its treatment. Chemotherapeutic drugs inhibit the growth of the cancer cells, but also weaken the immune system, bringing otherwise harmless illnesses, gastrointestinal problems, potential organ damage and infertility, and the list goes on. Doctors say that the hair loss that accompanies chemotherapy causes some victims to postpone treatment. What scientists Viktor Brabec and Jaroslav Malina of the Institute of Biophysics in Brno have achieved – in a non-clinical setting – is a replacement substance (water-stable metallo-helical 'flexicate' assemblies) that does the job without the side effects.

Viktor Brabec
“Our department has long been involved in studying the mechanism underlying the anti-cancer activity of various compounds – particularly those that are already being used clinically – and also model compounds. And we systematically test the hypothesis that only those new compounds which exhibit very unique mechanism of action have a chance to be tested as new anti-cancer compounds. And the new compound we are talking about now exhibits such properties. That means that the mechanism looks like it might be very different from the anti-cancer drugs used clinically, such as, for instance, platinum drugs.”

The compound in question has been reproduced by other scientists, but what made this discovery possible was the ability of the partner team at Warwick University in England to synthesize a very pure and stable compound through a unique process that can be used in the medicinal arena. The substance can also be used against bacteria that are resistant to clinical antibiotics, and may promise much more.

“These results are very preliminary, but it looks like these compounds could exhibit anti-tumour activity in tumours that are not sensitive to the anti-cancer metal drugs being clinically used already.

Nonetheless, no clinical studies have yet taken place and the researchers hope their work, published first in Nature Chemistry magazine, will be widely disseminated so that applied research institutions can begin clinical trials. If all goes well, people may be able to reap the great benefits suggested by the discovery within the next ten years.