Feature Story | 2-May-2022

Substances that can become the basis for cancer drugs have been obtained

Compounds block targets responsible for tumor cell growth

Ural Federal University

Chemists at the Ural Federal University (UrFU) have synthesized complex heterocyclic compounds that can block tumor growth. These compounds act on the unique mechanism of cancer cells and thus inhibit their reproduction. The action of the compounds was studied on cells of glioblastoma, osteosarcoma, and human embryonic rhabdomyosarcoma.

“There are mechanisms in tumor cells that don't work in normal cells. For example, protein kinases phosphorylate and change an intracellular molecule. When this protein is active, tumor growth occurs. If its activity is suppressed, it can cause the death of the tumor cell without affecting the normal cell. Such selective targets that are active only in tumor tissues can be used to create antitumor medications,” explains Vsevolod Melekhin, Head of the Laboratory of Primary Bioscreening, Cellular and Gene Technologies at the UrFU.

Scientists are now conducting primary screening. This is the initial stage of research - the effectiveness of compounds is tested on cell cultures. To date, researchers have tested about a hundred chemical compounds, five of which have shown promising results.

“We are testing their antitumor activity. Our laboratory evaluates their effect on cell cultures in vitro: we cultivate cells in an incubator, add new compounds, and see how these compounds affect tumor development: growth is either inhibited or the tumor cells die. Potentially the most favorable situation is when the compounds have a toxic effect on the tumor cells, but they are not toxic to normal cells. And we are just trying to find a compound that will not affect the viability of healthy cells and destroy the tumor cells,” Melekhin adds.

Although the synthesized substances have shown good results on cells, scientists are cautious about possible anti-cancer medications based on them.

“If we talk about possible prospects, one of these compounds could become the basis for an antitumor medication that will be used in the clinic years from now. It could be more effective than existing medications. Another thing is that out of 10,000 potential compounds, only one can form the basis of a medication. We need to find one that will show antitumor activity not only on cultured cells, but will also show the same activity in the body and at the same time will not be toxic,” explains Vsevolod Melekhin.

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