Let’s all hope this isn’t just another excercise in “Cold Fusion breaktrough”. It may mean that you’ll be able to take an injection or pill(s) to cure cancer in the future instead of radiation or the horrid chemotherapy. If it works, great, on the downside, with a patent hanging over it, it may not be within reach of the people who can’t afford it.
A group of Johns Hopkins researchers claim that they are patenting a possible cure for cancer involving nothing more than combination of sugar and short-chain fatty acids
The Johns Hopkins researchers cautioned that their double-punch molecule, described in the December issue of the journal Chemistry & Biology, has not yet been tested on animals or humans.
Nevertheless, they believe it represents a promising new strategy for fighting the deadly disease, and have already filed an application for a U.S. patent covering this class of compounds.
“For a long time, cancer researchers did not pay much attention to the use of sugars in fighting cancer,” Department of Biomedical Engineering postdoctoral fellow said. “But we found that when the right sugar is matched with the right chemical partner, it can deliver a powerful double-whammy against cancer cells.”
Sampathkumar and his colleagues built upon 20-year-old findings that a short-chain fatty acid called butyrate can slow the spread of cancer cells. In the 1980s, researchers discovered that butyrate, which is formed naturally at high levels in the digestive system by symbiotic bacteria that feed on fibre, can restore healthy cell functioning.
Efforts to use butyrate as a general drug for tumours elsewhere in the body have been hindered by the high doses of the compound needed to effectively eradicate cancer leading scientists to try and make butyrate more potent by modifying it or joining it to other compounds.
The results have been disappointing because the molecular partner added to butyrate to improve delivery to the cancer cells often produced unsafe side effects.
In some of the less successful experiments, designed to avoid toxic side effects, researchers used innocuous sugar molecules such as glucose to carry butyrate into the cells.
“We didn’t think they chose the right partner molecule,” said Kevin J. Yarema, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering who supervised the project. “Our insight was to select the sugar partner to serve not just as a passive carrier but as additional ammunition in the fight against cancer.”
The researchers focused on a sugar called N-acetyl-D-mannosamine, or ManNAc, for short, and created a hybrid molecule by linking ManNAc with butyrate.
The hybrid easily penetrates a cell’s surface, then is split apart by enzymes inside the cell.
Once inside the cell, ManNAc is processed into another sugar known as sialic acid that plays key roles in cancer biology, while butyrate orchestrates the expression of genes responsible for halting the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells.
Although the study of the exact molecular mechanism is in its early stages, the researchers believe the separate chemical components work together to bolster the cancer-fighting power of butyrate.
The double attack triggers cellular suicide, also called apoptosis, in the cancer cells.