The fight against cancer has another weapon. Very recently, scientists have made a discovery in basic and clinical research that will help in taking the fight ahead. Such discoveries in basic and clinical research and technological advances arming cancer fight with better weapons.
New and more selective therapies may be on the horizon. Chemistry Department of University of Alberta has developed a new compound that will be able to target a specific enzyme that is associated with certain types of cancers. The researchers have already tasted the new compound in cells extracted from brain tumours.
This is a first of its kind inhibitor, which was synthesised by the research team. The compound can prevent the activity of neuraminidase, an enzyme. This is an enzyme which is used in many biological processes by the human cells.
Neuraminidases are present in huge amount in glioblastoma cells, which is one type of brain cancer. The new compound was tried on these cells. University of Milan also tasted the compound which works as an enzyme inhibitor. Glioblastoma cancer stem cells are present in a tumour and they drive the growth of cancer. The new compound was found to convert the cancer stem cells into normal cells. The compound also restricted the growth of cancer cells. These results are very important as they can show a new mechanism for therapeutics. It means the inhibitor of the enzyme may be used therapeutically. It also emphasises the role of future research on the compound.
The initial results can be considered as the first proof of concept that shows that the selective compound can have a real effect case of cancer cells of humans. Even though this is not a medicine, and approved by the authority, but it will help as a new target that will help researchers in finding a more effective and selective drug for cancer.
It may take some time to take the compound from proof of concept to the drug stage. Proving that it works is the first step in deciding the potential of the compound as a therapy. At the present form, the compound cannot be used in a similar fashion of a medicine. It will take lots of research to decide the right concentration of the compound and to get ahead of the blood drain barrier, which exists in the human body, to reach the target cells.
The research is important because it helps the doctors and the researchers to understand how much carbohydrates are important to the cells for functioning. The present results will help in Glycobiology, which is the segment of biology that focuses on understanding the functions of complex carbohydrates in human cells. The carbohydrates resident on the cell surface decide the interaction with other cells so they are important in cancer and any other problems. By creating compounds that are capable of changing the structures of the carbohydrates, the interactions can be controlled. The carbohydrates present on cancer cells are different from the normal cells and so studies of the carbohydrates and their interactions are important. The recent results show that it is possible to selectively target specific enzymes.
However, it is very important to find out the right target because if the wrong enzyme is targeted, there may be harmful side effects on the human body. The research team which discovered the enzyme is already working on improving the compound they used for testing. They will develop and try new and existing inhibitors to find out the results they produce in different tests to be performed in the future. That may take some time, but if they are successful, it will mean a lot for the cancer patients.