Cocktails of different chemicals that self-assemble into drugs once inside the body have proven to be highly toxic against cancer cells in different tumours, the team says.
The researchers have been looking at different self-assembling drugs which combine to target different kinds of tumour in a bid to tackle one of the greatest barriers to finding a universal treatment for the disease.
The huge variety of different tumours that can occur has prevented scientists developing cures for the disease as each kind requires being treated in different ways, with no such thing as a “one size fits all” drug.
But scientists at Huddersfield’s Department of Chemical Sciences say they have reached a breakthrough despite being in the early stages of research.
Self-assembly is the ability to instruct chemical systems with specific information so in the correct environment they will spontaneously generate biologically active compounds.
Different self-assembling drugs have different chemotherapy properties, the research team said.
Professor Craig Rice, of the Department who worked on the research, said: “Anti-cancer drug discovery and development can be enormously time consuming and expensive with a particular drug only being effective against a relatively small number of cancers with specific shared properties.
“In the future, it may be possible to target many cancers through this approach with the correct drug ‘self-assembled’ in such a manner to be selective for a specific cancer.”
The scientists’ research also led to unprecedented cancer selectivity in the laboratory that, in some cases, were thousands of times more toxic to the cancer cells compared to healthy, normal cells.
Future studies will be able to test if these self-assembling drugs may be useful for cancers for which effective treatments are not currently available.
Professor Rice added that these studies represent the very early days of drug discovery and whilst the initial results have been very promising, there will be many obstacles to overcome before the full clinical potential of this new discovery is realised.