'Smart Bomb' Treatment Hones in on Cancer Cells

Avoids side effects that chemotherapy often causes

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MONDAY, Sept. 8, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A new treatment that may precisely attack cancer cells like a "smart bomb" has been developed by scientists at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

The scientists say their combination of a novel cancer cell-killing agent and a precision-targeting technology shows great potential.

The Rutgers approach uses a prodrug to deliver their potent cancer-killing compound to the target. A prodrug is an inert chemical derivative of a drug that can be activated once it reaches its destination inside a patient's body.

Prodrugs are able to safely transport highly potent medicines through the body without harming other body tissues along the way.

The research was being presented Sept. 8 at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in New York City.

Traditional anticancer drugs use accelerated cell growth as their trigger. However, this can lead to collateral damage in rapidly replicating normal cells, leading to side effects such as hair loss, nausea and reduced immunity.

With the new Rutgers treatment, the prodrugs use an enzyme called nitroreductase as the activating trigger. That guarantees a direct hit on cancer cells.

When the gene for this enzyme is inserted into cancer cells, the cancer cells start to express the nitroreductase, marking themselves as targets. The prodrug "bomb" finds these cancer cells and unleashes its cancer-killing toxin.

The Rutgers scientists say there is still much research to be done. If all goes well, human clinical trials may begin in a couple of years.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about cancer treatments.

SOURCE: Rutgers University, news release, Sept. 8, 2003

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