Creating synthetic molecules to battle cancer

April 5th, 2008 - 4:26 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, April 5 (IANS) Researchers are looking at synthetic molecules to provide a vastly cheaper alternative to therapeutic antibodies in the treatment of cancer and other diseases. Researchers of University of Texas Southwestern have developed a simple and inexpensive method to screen small synthetic molecules and isolate a handful that might treat cancer and other diseases.

These findings will be appearing in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

It has several advantages over traditional tools that isolate such compounds from large collections, costing only $1,000, as against the $40,000 for traditional methods.

The researchers screened more than 300,000 such molecules, called peptoids in just a couple of days, with the help of the new technique. They promptly singled out five promising candidates mimicking an antibody used for treating cancer. One of the compounds blocked the growth of human tumours in a mouse model.

Antibodies are molecules produced by the body to help ward off infection. Natural and manmade antibodies work by latching onto very specific targets such as receptors on the surface of cells.

Thomas Kodadek of the university who led researchers said: “New drugs being made today are antibodies, but they are extremely expensive.

“Financially, US healthcare system is going to have a difficult time accommodating the next 500 drugs being antibodies.”

“Our results show that a peptoid can attack a harmful receptor in the body with the same precision as an antibody, but would cost much less to develop,” added Kodadek, co-author of the study.

Peptoids are designed by labs to resemble chains of natural molecules called peptides. Some peptides are used as medications, such as insulin or antibodies used to treat some cancers, but because the stomach digests them, most can’t be taken by mouth and must be injected.

Conversely, peptoids are resistant to the stomach enzymes that degrade natural peptides, so it is possible that they could be swallowed as a pill.

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