Nanotech approach kills resistant cancer cells

A nanotechnology approach is being developed to selectively kill cancer cells—even those resistant to normal chemotherapy—using a peptide decorated with organic molecules called crown ethers. The peptide nanostructure is activated by a protein-cutting enzyme found on certain cancer cells so that the activated peptide aligns the crown ethers to punch holes in the cancer cell membranes. From Chemical Biology, written by Kathleen Too “Peptides provide fatal blow for cancer cells“, via Nanowerk News:

Peptide nanostructures that punch holes in cancer cells are ‘the first step towards efficient nanochemotherapeutics,’ say chemists in Canada.

Normand Voyer and colleagues at the University of Laval in Québec have designed a series of modified peptide nanostructures that can puncture cancer cell membranes, leading to the cells’ death.

The team explains that in the past decade, cancer cell resistance to chemotherapeutic agents has led to increased cancer deaths. ‘We believe that nanochemotherapeutics can overcome this problem due to the particular properties of nanometre-sized compounds,’ says Voyer.

Basing their structures on a membrane-disrupting peptide they had made previously, the researchers engineered analogues that would be selective for cancer cells. The engineered peptides are inactive until they reach cancer cell surfaces where they convert into an active cell membrane disruption agent. Since the enzyme that activates the peptides is over-expressed in prostate cancer cells, normal cells do not activate the peptide to the same extent, leading to the peptides’ selectivity.

The research was published in a free access article in the journal Chemical Communications.

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